Eighteen residents of a housing society based in Rajnagar Extension, SG Impressions 58, had challenged in the court the RWA practise of extracting a fixed monthly percentage on the electricity bill — and they have won!
They had pressed their case in the court of consumer grievance redressal forum in Meerut against their AOA in March 2018.
“Our AOA was charging Rs 400-500 extra on our electricity bills. Also, the money charged was going into the bank account opened to collect maintenance fund. This way, over Rs 2,00,000 of unaccounted money was being illegally extracted from the residents, every month,” complained Ruchin Mehra, one of the petitioners.
The court, in its judgement, said:
- AOA cannot charge more than 5%. The money extracted for fixed charge should not exceed the amount the AOA paid to the electricity board under the same head
- Two separate bills regarding individual consumption of electricity and consumption in common area should be made available to the residents
- The AOA is to provide details of the money collected from the residents for electricity and the amount paid till date to the residents and electricity board every six months
- The AOA is to open a separate bank account to collect electricity bill. Also, the account is to be audited every year by a chartered accountant and the audit report to be made available to all residents
The court gave a month’s ultimatum to the AOA and asked the power discom, PVVNL, to ensure compliance.
According to provisions under the Electricity Act 2003, each society is registered as one consumer with PVVNL and the electricity load is fixed for each society. The society then sublets the load to individual houses and collects power dues. The societies can charge a fixed amount of 5% on individual electricity bill — but not beyond. The fixed charge is to be paid to the PVVNL.
Here’s where the trouble starts...
The AOAs, wrongfully, overcharge the fixed amount, and then, the pre-paid meter installed in every house is used for both power bills and maintenance funds. It also does not provide electricity bills to the residents!
“Plus, there’s no separate account for power dues, and thus, no audit takes place. In the absence of a specific account, the loot by AOAs in the name of fixed charges continues,” Mehra explained.
AOA of SG Impressions told City Spidey that it would comply with the court orders, except on fixed charge, as it seemed “inconclusive and ambiguous”.
“In the judgement, the court has merely cited a few examples to reiterate the provisions mandated earlier regarding collection of fixed charges. We need applicability. The court did not specify how much we are exceeding the fixed charge on the bill — and how much we should demand. So for us, the judgement lacks clarity,” noted Loveleen Bhatnagar, an executive member of the AOA while adding, "who's going to examine the charges that will need to be adjusted."
Meanwhile, Mehra is confident that the order will encourage other residents to react.
Alok Kumar, president Federation of Apartments Owners Association, too, welcomed the decision.
He stressed that AOAs need to be transparent in matters of money. “The AOA should give particulars of the money they charge. It’s not a profit-making body — it exists to make lives of fellow residents better,” he added.
In July 2017, in view of repeated complaints by individual power consumers, the power department had issued notices to over 200 AOAs and builders across Ghaziabad for issuing inflated electricity bills to the residents.
In Indirapuram alone, 66 housing societies were served notices from the department.