People's earnings have fallen drastically due to job cuts and shutdown of businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The middle class and the low-income people are leading a miserly life to fight the financial crisis and the deadly virus.
Amid this crisis and shock, retail consumers across the country were in for a double shock when they received their electricity bills in the second week of May. The majority of them alleged that they received bills that were at least twice as high as that of the previous months.
They said it would be an additional burden for them in this time of crisis.
Allegations of inflated electricity bills came from all corners of the country. Retail consumers of Dhaka Electric Supply Company Ltd (Desco), Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd (DPDC) and the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) got such disproportionate bills.
Consumers are now gathering at the customer service points of their respective power supply companies to know why they were charged double the amount and are also demanding correct bills. Some of them took to social media to express their outrage about the inflated bills after facing unbearable harassment at the customer service points.
Habiba Parvin (pseudonym), a resident of Mohakhali DOHS, received a bill of Tk5,919 for May. In the previous months, she had paid Tk600-700 on average.
Shakhawat Hossain (pseudonym) in the same neighbourhood said, "On average, my bill is Tk1,700-2,000. But this time, the sum was a staggering Tk10,016. This is unreasonable."
In addition to these two, The Business Standard has received a list of 54 retail consumers in Mohakhali DOHS who received higher than usual bills for April and May.
Desco said some of its retail consumers have got higher than usual bills, but there are very few of them.
Its Managing Director Md Kausar Ameer Ali said, "Due to billing without reading metres at the customers' end, some got higher bills and some got lower. However, we are assuring them of adjusting the amount after taking the exact figure from the metre."
Besides, we are solving problems of those who are coming up with complaints, he said.
At the end of March, owing to electricity supply company officials not being permitted to enter consumers' homes to take metre readings, the government asked the authorities concerned to collect a sum that was the average of the previous three months' bill.
To issue a bill based on that, the power distribution companies ended up making a mess. People in rural areas where the BREB supplies power have also made dozens of complaints.
Mohammad Mohibul Hasan, who works for a private company and who lives in a rented house in Teknaf, expressed outrage in a Facebook post. A consumer of Teknaf Palli Bidyut Samity, he wrote, "I have been paying a monthly bill of Tk300 for using six lights and two ceiling fans. But this time, the bill was shocking for me. It was Tk1,900."
Like Hasan, hundreds of retail consumers in BREB areas have got such exorbitant bills. They are now queuing at the local electricity offices to get the correct bill as payment deadline is June 30.
BREB Chairman Major General Moin Uddin (retd) said a notice has been issued to all local offices to address such complaints.
"This has happened as our metre readers were not allowed to enter consumers' houses for recording the real figure. However, we are very keen to address the consumers' sufferings," he added.