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Consumers exasperated by long queues for prepaid electricity bill payment

  • Published at 10:03 pm May 8th, 2018
Consumers exasperated by long queues for prepaid electricity bill payment
Prepaid electricity meters are causing major inconvenience to consumers, who say authorities introduced the system without offering consumers hassle-free means for bill payment. Consumers are forced to spend frustratingly long hours waiting in queue on weekdays to pay their bills. Authorities say consumers will enjoy improved bill payment facilities within three months. Consumers said they previously paid their electricity bills after consumption but now they have to pay the bill in advance and face considerable inconvenience when doing so. Mamun Rahman, one of the consumers waiting in the long queue at a vending station of Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) near the capital’s Azimpur bus terminal, said the new system is quite troublesome. “I live in a rented house. I used to pay the electricity bill to the house owner at the end of the month. But now I have to pay the bill on my own. I have to wait for several hours in the long queue to pay the bill. This makes me late for work.” Another consumer Sumi Islam, a resident of Sector No 4 of Uttara, said: “We have to pay the bill on weekdays. This is an extra hassle for us.” She urged authorities to find ways so consumers can pay the bill without standing in the queue. Morshed Rahman, who was waiting in a long queue at another vending station of DPDC at Asad Gate, said he cannot keep any other work on his schedule on the bill payment day as it takes up all his time. “You will see such long lines almost every day. But it becomes longer at the beginning and end of the month,” he observed. Another consumer Nazma Haque said if the authorities do not ease the system the situation will get worse and that such inconvenience does not make sense: “About 100 million people across the country use mobile phones. We do not have to stand in the queue for recharge. Then why do we have to stand in the line to pay our electricity bill?”

What do the authorities say about bill payment?

Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) is responsible for supplying electricity to most areas of the capital. Currently DPDC supplies prepaid meters to 250,000 consumers, one-fourth of the total consumers. The authorities are planning to bring all clients under the prepaid meter system in phases. But consumers anticipate if the company supplies electricity through prepaid meters without making the billing system consumer-friendly, it would exacerbate their suffering. According to the plan, as many as 22 million consumers are expected to be brought under the prepaid meter system by 2021. Gradually all consumers across the country will be brought under the system. Currently, there are around 27 million consumers in the country. Besides, power connection is being provided to about 350,000 new consumers every month. DPDC officials said one of the major advantages of the prepaid meter system is that clients pay the bill before consuming power. So, no dues are left unpaid and clients cannot consume more power than the load they are allowed. It reduces pilfering and system loss and brings transparency to the overall management. However, they conceded that the low number of vending stations has caused inconvenience to clients when paying bills. DPDC Managing Director Bikash Dewan admitted that the clients have to face troubles and said, “We are trying to address the issue. We have already signed an agreement with a mobile operator. Deals will be made with other mobile operators as well.” Consumers of Dhaka Electricity Supply Company (DESCO) face far less trouble, claimed the company’s Managing Director Shahid Sarwar: “DPDC has much more consumers than DESCO. But our clients are increasing. Most of the DESCO clients are under prepaid meter system.” Shahid said most clients pay bills at the beginning and end of the month. “Even though there are long queues in the booths, there are many counters there. So the clients do not face much trouble,” added the DESCO official. Power Cell Director General Mohammad Hossain, “We are creating a payment gateway. Consumers will be able to pay electricity bills through this gateway the way they recharge mobile phones. We hope to finish the process within three months. And then the consumers will get rid of the inconvenience.” This article was first published on banglatribune.com
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