Angry consumers claim that the use of smart meters is the reason behind high electricity bills
by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) could face legal action if a probe by the power sector regulator proves the elements of “negligence”, as the utility giant faces a surge in complaints over overcharged electricity bills.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin (picture) has ordered the Energy Commission to conduct a complete probe over the matter after the government-linked company failed to provide a satisfactory explanation over the spike in complaints.
The government expects the full report over the “overcharging” incidents to be ready in two weeks.
The Energy Commission had reported a spike in complaints of high electricity bills up to 286 cases in May compared to an average of 10 cases in the last four months.
Yeo said the commission can initiate legal proceedings against TNB if the company is found to have breached provisions under Section 9C of the Electricity Supply Act 1990.
The provision in the Act states that the commission can issue codes, guidelines or directions on standards of performance of supply and services to be implemented by TNB.
One of these guidelines assert that the time interval between successive rendering of bills is within a one-month period.
Yeo said there have been reports of the billings being calculated beyond the stipulated time frame. She cited that one case of the electricity usage was prorated over a 38-day period and subsequently raising the final bill.
“If it is proven to be true, it means that TNB has violated the performance standard and the Act permits legal action.
Under Section 37 of the Act, the company can be fined with a maximum fee of RM25,000 and an additional RM500 per day delayed — and this is the penalty for just one case,” the minister said at a news conference in Putrajaya yesterday.
Yeo believed the problem is related to technical error at the power company. She also brushed aside Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s claim that the spike in prices was due to additional surcharges imposed by the government earlier in March.
“These complaints were made in the last few days and they were not due to tariffs,” she said.
Angry consumers had taken to the social media to highlight their plight of the high electricity bills. Some claimed that the use of smart meters was the reason behind the problem.
Yeo said the commission will investigate the allegation, and added that the smart meters are only used in Melaka as a pilot project.
“The problem now is, the complaints are coming from all over the country. You cannot have a problem with smart meters if you are residing in Rawang,” she said, adding that the government has no plans to halt the implementation of the new reading devices.
When asked if the public can postpone the payment of their electricity bills for the month, Yeo said payments must still be made based on the stipulated time and the ministry hopes to resolve the matter within the payment timeline of 30 days.
However, if the problem prolongs, Yeo said the extra payment will likely be credited into the following months.