Electricity bill and consumer court
The article helps give a deeper understanding of when both the Electricity Bill Act, 2003 and Consumer Protection Act, 1986 run parallel to give consumer redressal. The article helps in understanding which Act over-rides the other.
With the help of the recent judgement, we will get a better understanding of the whole matter:
The Supreme Court, in its final verdict while hearing the appeal filed by UP Power Corporation and eight more cases of the similar nature held that:
1. In case of any inconsistency between Electricity Act, 2003 and Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the provisions of CPA, 1986 will prevail with regard to the matters of ”services” and “complaints” defined under Section 2(1)(o) and Sections 2(1)(c) of the CPA respectively.
2. A complaint was made against the assessment made for unauthorized use of electricity under Section 126 of Electricity Act or action taken by billing with penal rates under Section 135 to Section 140 cannot be challenged before the consumer courts established under Consumer Protection Act.
3. Electricity act 2003 and Consumer Protection Act run parallel for giving redressal to consumers who fall within the definition of consumer and complainant under the Consumer Protection Act under sections 2(1 )(c) and (d) of the Act .
It has been further explained here itself that consumer’s dispute under this clause shall be limited to the ‘disputes related to unfair trade practices’, or ‘restricted trade practices’, or ‘if consumer suffers from deficiency in services’ or ‘hazardous services’, or ‘service provider has charged a price in excess of the price fixed by or under any law’.
The Supreme Court decision.
The Supreme Court upheld, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s statement that consumer forums had the jurisdiction to deal with cases of deficiency in services against the electricity board. Moreover, it being an additional remedy provided to consumers under Consumer Protection Act. The commission had also held that assessment for unauthorized use of electricity under Section 126 of Electricity Act or action taken by billing with penal rates under sections 135 to 140 could be challenged before both the courts – appellant court established by electricity board under Section 127 of Electricity Act as well as consumer forum under Consumer Protection Act – for deficiency in services.
The Supreme Court’s judgement is a very important one as it has come in very clear language and with all necessary details, thereby putting to rest all controversies with regard to the jurisdiction of consumer courts about electricity matters.
Who’s a Consumer under Electricity Act?
Consumer under Section 2(15) of the Electricity Act means any person, supplied with electricity for his own use or use of licensee or the government or any other person engaged in the business of supplying electricity to the public under this Act or any other law for the time being in force. It also includes any person premises used for the time being connected for the purpose of receiving electricity with the works of a licensee, the government or such other person, as the case pertains.
Recently, some cases had come up before various courts with the argument that industry received electricity for their own use and did not further sell off the electricity for profit. Hence, industry should also come under the definition of consumer as per the Act.
However, the Supreme Court in its recent order made it very clear that industries, do not use electricity for livelihood and cannot come at par with the common consumer. Hence, industries are not consumers.
How Is the Law on Your Side?
With both the Electricity Bill Act,2003 and Consumer Protection Act,1986 coming to the aid of the consumer, what does the consumer need to know:
- Consumer can file a complaint in the consumer court, if a service provider has charged a price in excess of the price fixed by any law. The consumer can file a complaint before the forum for excess billing. However, the consumer should not have unauthorized use or theft of electricity.
- The provisions of the Electricity Act does not bar the jurisdiction of the consumer court; instead it confirms additional remedy under Consumer Protection Act.
- This just goes to say that, the CPA, 1986 is much more powerful than the EBA.2003.
- Sections 173, 174, 175 of Electricity Act, does not override the provisions of CPA 1986, Atomic Energy Act, Railways Act. It can do so on other law set up though.
- Furthermore, goes to mean that the consumer is as important as atomic energy and railways for the country.
- Section 45 of the Electricity Act bars cannot bar the jurisdiction of a consumer forum.
- Therefore, this makes the consumer court more powerful than the civil courts.