Before the
MAHARASHTRA ELECTRICITY REGULATORY COMMISSION
13th Floor, Centre No.1, World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400 005.
Tel. 22163964 / 22163965, Fax No. 22163976
E-mail mercindia@mercindia.org.in
Website: www.mercindia.org.in
October 31, 2005
PRACTICE DIRECTIONS UNDER REGULATION 21 OF MERC (CONSUMER GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL FORUM & OMBUDSMAN) REGULATIONS, 2003
  In exercise of powers conferred on it by Regulation 21 of the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum and Ombudsman) Regulations, 2003 ("the Regulations") and all other powers enabling it in this behalf, the Commission hereby issues the following Practice Directions to the Distribution Licensees and the Forums constituted by them under section 42(5) of the Electricity Act, 2003 and to the Ombudsman appointed by the Commission under section 42(6), to guide them on matters of practice and procedure for the implementation of the said Regulations.
  Practice Directions
1.1 In furtherance of the provisions of the proviso to Regulation 6.3 the Commission directs the Forums to entertain Grievances which have been intimated to Distribution Licensees (no matter whether the grievance has been submitted to the internal system or Chief Engineer or other officials of the Licensee) which are pending redressal or reply for upto 12 months. In effect, a grievance may be filed with the Forum where unsatisfactory remedy or no remedy has been provided in cases pending redressal by the Distribution Licensee for a period not exceeding 12 months.
1.2 Inspite of the Regulations, it is likely that many consumers may not yet be fully aware of the internal grievance redressal mechanism established by the Licensee or the procedure for approaching it. Until general awareness is created, many consumers would be approaching the concerned Chief Engineer or other officials who may not be part of the internal mechanism. Considering the 'Basic Principles' set out at Regulation 3.1, such consumers can also approach the Forum.
2.1 The Regulations, stipulate that the Distribution Licensees should have an internal system to "record" the Grievances. This is provided in Regulation 6.1. However, it is understood that there are cases where consumers are neither receiving any form of acknowledgmentafter submitting their grievances in writing nor is the Distribution License recording such grievances.

The date of intimation by the consumer to the internal redressal system of the Distribution Licensee is necessary for the consumer so as to enable him/her to submit the Grievance to the Forum in accordance with Regulation 6.3.

The internal systems of the Distribution Licensees are required to issue an acknowledgement immediately upon receipt where the consumer or a representative has delivered it personally at the office of the internal redressal system. In cases where it has been received by post/courier, the consumer shall be given such acknowledgement through post/courier within five (5) working days from the date of receipt.
2.2 The concerned Chief Engineers or other officials (who are not part of the internal mechanism of the Distribution Licensees) whom many consumers would be approaching due to lack of general awareness of the internal grievance redressal mechanism established by the Licensee or the procedure for approaching it, shall immediately forward the grievances to the internal mechanism (which has been designated to be so in furtherance of the Regulations) under intimation to the consumer, or ask the consumer to do so. Notwithstanding the foregoing, written acknowledgement of the grievance shall be provided by concerned Chief Engineers or other officials (who are not part of the internal mechanism of the Distribution Licensees).
3. It has been brought to the Commission's notice that the offices of some Forums are open for receipt of consumer's Applications by hand delivery only on some and not all working days. The Commission directs that necessary arrangements should be made for receipt of all hand-delivered applications on all working days of the Licensees.
4. It has been brought to the notice of the Commission that Licensees, being required to submit "para-wise" response to the grievance filed before the Forum,, often do not do so. As a result, consumers are not able to understand the response of the Licensee, including any proposed action (including modalities) or inaction by the Licensee in dealing with the redressal of grievance, and to address it.

It is expected that Distribution Licensees comply with Regulation 6.8 requiring them to "furnish para-wise comments on the Grievance". Such "para-wise comments" should address all issues raised by the consumer in a point - wise manner. As provided in Regulation 6.8, in the event such comments are not submitted the Forum shall proceed on the basis of the material record available.
5. The Commission appreciates that there may be situations where consumers should be entitled to immediate interim reliefs. Several instances have come to the Commission's notice that Licensees cut off the supply of electricity and for that purpose cut or disconnect electric supply line or other works, without giving minimum fifteen (15) clear days' notice in writing, to the person, as is statutorily required under Section 56 of the Electricity Act, 2003.

For cases prima facie deserving such immediate interim reliefs, the Commission clarifies that Regulation 8.2.4 entitles the Forums to issue interim orders, provided the issue raised before the Forum is within its jurisdiction.

6. The Commission directs that certified copies of orders, decisions, directions and reasons in support thereof to be supplied in accordance with Regulations 7 (1) and 18(1) shall be supplied free of cost to the parties. For any other persons (under Regulations 7 (2) and 18(2), the same shall be on payment of actual photocopying charges. This will apply prospectively, and will not affect any different charges that might have been levied prior to these Practice Directions.
7. The Commission expects that Distribution Licensees comply with Regulation 3 and accordingly directs Distribution Licensees to promote an awareness amongst its consumers regarding the (i) existence, location and timings of their internal grievance redressal systems / cells; (ii) the procedure involved in submitting grievances/complaints to their internal grievance redressal systems / cells; (iii) existence, location and timings of their Forums.
8. The Commission clarifies that Regulations 6.11 and 17(2) enable the Forums and Ombudsman, respectively, to engage a third party (other than the Distribution Licensee) at the instance and request of the consumer to undertake inspection with regard to Grievances and obtain independent report. This power is to be exercised by the Forum and Ombudsman given the circumstances and merits requiring such third party inspection. The Forum and Ombudsman shall record the reasons in writing requiring the engagement of third party inspection. The expenses of such third party inspection shall be borne by the Distribution Licensee, and to the extent reasonable and justifiable such expenses shall be allowed in the determination of tariff in accordance with the relevant Regulations of the Commission.
9. The Commission clarifies that, subject to affording the parties reasonable opportunity to present their case and be heard, the Forums may (i) reject grievances which prima facie appear to the Forums to be frivolous, vexatious, malafide, or without any sufficient cause; or (ii)reject grievances on account of there being no prima facie loss, damage or inconvenience caused to the consumer. However, the Forums shall, in their Orders, record reasons for such rejection.

Sd/-
(S. B. Kulkarni)
Member
Sd/-
(A. Velayutham)
Member
Sd/-
(Dr Pramod Deo)
Chairman, MERC
   
Sd/-
(A.M. Khan)
Secretary, MERC


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