The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has stopped Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) from charging estimated bills on defective meters. Consumers in Sindh and Balochistan will not receive an estimated bill unless their gas meter is tested in a laboratory and proven to be faulty.
Sources indicate that SSGC has been receiving complaints regarding estimated bills issued to consumers. These bills were estimated on one year to three year average consumption of the customer and were sent to them since the day their meter was detected to be out of order or defective.
For a defective meter, these are the categories the problem can be classified in:
- Out of order
- Pass unregistered gas (PUG)
- Inaccurate reading
- Registering erroneously
Illegal Billing Practice
According to a senior official,
This was not in accordance with law and not authorised by any legal forum, neither by the government nor by the regulator.
The regulator he mentions is OGRA. OGRA’s letter to the managing director of SSGC notes that:
Under clause 10 of the Contract (signed with the consumer), the company may charge estimated consumption to the consumer if and only if it is established through testing of the gas meter that the same is out of order/defective/ PUG/inaccurate/registering erroneously. Charging of estimated consumption before testing of gas meter is not in line with the contract, and hence incorrect.
Lab Testing Does Not Meet Standards
An official from OGRA said that the lab testing on defective meters does not meet the required standards either. Independent tests cannot be conducted and the testing responsibility ultimately rests with the gas utility itself. The official, while responding to a question replied that as of now, no complaint has been received yet regarding the testing procedures of SSGC’s labs or that the tests were unfair in any way.
He said that in an ideal situation, testing should be done by an autonomous third party and not by the gas utility itself. Although he was quick to point out that electricity consumers also have to rely on lab tests by the power companies themselves and not third parties.