Apartment owners and industrialists across Tamil Nadu can heave a sigh of relief as Tangedco has barred all field officers from collecting extension costs.
Every time a consumer applies for a new electricity connection, Tangedco collects a certain amount for extension of electric lines and installation of new infrastructure.
For instance, an apartment in Chennai, which is located a hundred metres away from an existing power line, paid .90,000 as extension cost for a new three-phase connection.
Collection of extension charges is against the Tamil Nadu Electricity Distribution Code. In 2009, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) directed Tangedco to not only stop this violation but also refund the money collected from consumers.
Despite repeated directions from the commission, Tangedco continued to collect extension charges. Some of the aggrieved consumers approached TNERC seeking assistance. On such occasions, the commission penalised Tangedco up to a maximum of 1 lakh.
K Kathirmathiyon, a consumer rights’ activist, had petitioned TNERC stating that Tangedco did not mind paying hefty fine and then collected crores every year under this head. “It seems to be their strategy,” he said.
Tangedco argued that its infrastructure expenses had risen and they were left with no other option but to collect extension charges for new service connection requests.
Kathirmathiyon said that only to meet such increased expenses, Tangedco started collecting development charges from all the consumers (invariable of whether extension works are done or not) and more recently in 2019 it increased these charges by 400%. Therefore, there is no need to collect extension charges illegally, he said.
The Commission, which took suo motu cognizance of his petition, seconded his claims and on Tuesday (December 28) ordered Tangedco to take corrective action to avoid consumers knocking on their doors for relief.
Based on this, Tangedco has now sent a circular to all district-level authorities to stop collection of extension charges.