The institutions for Grievance Redressal of electricity consumers envisaged in the Electricity Act 2003 namely Consumer Grievance Redressal Forums (CGRF)and State Electricity Ombudsman have come up in Kerala also. The primary objectives of this new set up is to improve the level of service to consumers and to safeguard the interests and rights of consumers.
The officers and employees of the KSEB should have some basic knowledge of the functions and powers of these authorities. These authorities are powerful bodies and even the Kerala High Court are now referring almost all grievance-related cases to these authorities. Sections 42(5) to 42(8) of the Electricity Act 2003 are related to the Ombudsman and CGRF. The formation, powers and functions of CGRF and Ombudsman are covered by the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum and Electricity Ombudsman) Regulations 2005.
Every distribution licensee should establish their own CGRF for redressal of grievances of the consumers in accordance with the guidelines specified by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC).
KSEB has established 3 Consumer Grievance Redressal Forums one each at Kottarakkara, Ernakulam and Kozhikode. The CGRF is a 3 member body headed by one Deputy Chief Engineer.
The State Electricity Ombudsman is an independent authority appointed by Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission. The Ombudsman shall be an electrical engineer of ability, integrity and standing who has experience of not less than 20 years in power sector. Knowledge in management, finance or law is an additional qualification.He has jurisdiction through out Kerala and shall attend to the grievances of all the Licensees in the State.
We shall go through some important provisions of the Act and the Regulations in relation to CGRF and Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will not normally entertain complaints directly from the public. The Ombudsman is the Appellate Authority. The Consumers are to submit their Petitions to CGRF first. The CGRF will issue their orders on the Petitions within 2 months. If the Consumer is not satisfied by the order he can make appeal to Ombudsman within one month. The Ombudsman shall issue orders on the Appeals within Three Months.
There is no provision for further appeals on the verdicts of Ombudsman. In other words the orders of Ombudsman are final.
Who can submit Complaint to CGRF and Ombudsman?
Ø any consumer of electricity supplied by the licensee
Ø applicants for new connections
Ø voluntary electricity consumer associations/forums/other body corporate or group of electricity consumers including the Central Government or State Government
Who is a Consumer?
Ø Any person who is supplied with electricity or connected to the lines for his own use
Ø or a person whose electricity supply is disconnected by a licensee
Ø or the person who has applied for connection for receiving electricity from a licensee
What is meant by a Complaint?
Any grievance made by a complainant in writing on:
(i) Defect or deficiency in electricity service provided by the Licensee
(ii) Unfair or restrictive trade practices of licensee in providing Electricity services
(iii) Charging of a price in excess of the price fixed by the Commission for supply of electricity and allied services
(iv) Errors in billing
(v) Erroneous disconnection of supply
(vi) Electricity services which are unsafe or hazardous to public life in contravention of the provisions of any law or rule in force or
(vii) Any other grievance connected with the supply of electricity by the licensee
Except those related to the following:
(1) Unauthorized use of electricity as provided under Section 126 of the Act; (artificial / unauthorized means, tampered meter, unauthorized purpose / extension)
(2) Offences and penalties as provided under Sections 135 to 139 of the Act (theft of electricity, material etc)
(3) Accident in the distribution, supply or use of electricity under Section 161 of the Act.
What is meant by Defect ?
Any fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, purity or standard of service, equipment or material in relation to electricity service shall be considered as defect in service.
What is meant by Deficiency ?
Ø Any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance, in relation to electricity service or performance standard
Ø Violations of Electricity Supply Code, contraventions of Act, Rules or Regulations made there under with regard to consumer interest
Electricity Service means Electricity Supply, metering, billing, maintenance of supply, maintenance of distribution system and all other attendant sub Services.
The bills issued by the licensee to the consumers shall contain the address of the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum. Also the following statement shall be printed on the Bills :
Complainants whose grievance is not redressed by the official of the licensee may approach the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum, and Ombudsman thereafter.
Every grievance lodged with the Forum shall be in Form A .This Form shall be made available to consumers in all Electricity Offices.
CGRF shall issue orders within a period of 2 months from the date of admission. CGRF may order
ü to redress the grievance of the complainant; and
ü to pay such amount as may be awarded as costs to the consumer.
Any Complainant aggrieved by the order made by the Forum may make a representation against such order to the Ombudsman, within a period of thirty days from the date of receipt of the order.
The Ombudsman shall hear appeals
Appeal has to be made in Form- B .Copies of the complaint filed with the CGRF, verdict of CGRF and all the related documents should be attached with it.
The Ombudsman shall be the Authority to receive and consider the representations against the orders of the CGRF .He shall try to facilitate their settlement by agreement through mediation between the licensee and complainant. If that is not possible he shall issue orders on the Appeal after hearing both the parties and verifying all the relevant records .He shall issue orders based upon the Act and the regulations and keeping the principles of natural justice.
Disposal of Appeal Petitions by Ombudsman
The Ombudsman has the power to call for any records which is found relevant in the case. He shall not consider the appeal if the same subject matter had been settled by the Ombudsman in any previous proceedings or if the same grievance by the Complainant is pending in any proceedings before any court, tribunal or arbitrator or any other authority, or a decree or award or a final order has already been passed by any such court, tribunal, arbitrator or authority.
The Ombudsman has to issue verdict within a period of 3 months from the date of receipt of the representation.
The Ombudsman shall observe the rules of natural justice, and may evolve its own procedures for disposing the Petitions.
The Ombudsman shall pass a speaking order with detailed reasoning that he thinks fair under the facts and circumstances of the representation.
The distribution licensee shall comply with the orders of the Ombudsman.
There are no Fees for the Petitions and appeals. No stamp duty or other costs. The Petitioner himself or any representative can appear before CGRF and Ombudsman. Advocates need not be engaged in all the cases.
Present Facts and Documentary Evidence
The Officers and employees of KSEB should be well prepared to argue their cases before the CGRF and Ombudsman. They should be conversant with the provisions of Electricity Act 2003 and the Rules and Regulations made under the Act. The provisions under the Electricity Supply Code, Terms and Conditions, Tariff Orders etc should be well understood and presented by them. The instructions in the internal circulars and communications within the Board will not normally be considered by these bodies if they are against the Act and Regulations. All the evidences presented must be supported by certified copies of documents.
The Officers attending the sittings of Ombudsman should remember that they are representing KSEB and should feel the responsibility. They have to present the views of the Board on the matters involved.
Since scope for appeal against the orders of Ombudsman is very limited we should be very careful in presenting cases before Ombudsman. When the issues at stake involve huge amounts it will be advisable to have thorough discussions with the concerned senior officers including Law Officer before the matter is presented before the Ombudsman.