As Bangladesh witnessed a record price hike of gas imposed in the current fiscal, many household consumers could not, but feel that the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) is neglecting their interest.
Gas price for household users has been hiked by over 32 percent. According to Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act, 2003, the Berc and other gas transmission and distribution companies are required by law to safeguard consumer interest.
Mizanur Rahman, a member of Berc, told the Business Standard: “I admit that the order regarding the gas price hike for household consumers has some shortcomings.”
Meanwhile, on condition of anonymity, another member of Berc said: “We have the authority to compensate consumers and take measures against corruption of utility companies, but we don’t have the culture to negotiate with government decisions.”
For years, unmetered household consumers of Titas Gas has been paying Tk 800 for double-burner gas stoves and Tk 750 for single-burners. But meter users have been paying around Tk. 450 per month.
“We allocate 16 percent of the total gas supply for households. But only 6 to 7 percent is being supplied,” said a Titas official, preferring to be anonymous.
In the previous public hearing over the decision of gas price hike, the Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB), had strongly opposed the additional burden of gas price hike on households.
During the hearing, the CAB also appealed to the Berc to take into account a recent report against Titas Gas on corruption. But the Berc did not take the factors into account while raising the price.
The Berc also ordered the installation of pre-paid meters for households and Electric Volume Corrector (EVC) meters for industries and commercial users by 2015.
But by the end of the first half of the current year, only 1 lakh household installed pre-paid meters, and very few of those meters can be found in the industrial and commercial sectors.
Speaking on the issue, the CAB’s Power and Energy Adviser M Shamsul Alam complained that if the utility companies execute the Berc order for installation of meters, corruption in the sector would stop.
He held Berc responsible for the reported corruption of utility companies, and termed the public hearing a drama.
“Berc also ignored the affordability of the consumers, as they are already facing additional cost burdens in the new budget,” he said.