Prime minister’s energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury on Thursday asked the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission to create a fund to help the poor energy consumers bear all expenses required at the arbitration tribunal.
The fees proposed in the draft regulations of the BERC should not discourage the poor from seeking justice over any dispute with energy utilities, he said at the inaugural session of a workshop on finalising a draft regulation on dispute settlement in energy sector.
The BERC hosted the workshop in the capital with the stakeholders on the draft which would replace the current regulation.
In the draft Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Dispute Settlement Regulations-2017, the commission has categorised the rates of fees in 10 different groups in terms of amount of money involved in a dispute in the energy sector, said officials.
According to the draft regulations, a claimant will have to deposit Tk 15,000 in advance in the energy commission for settlement of a dispute involving up to Tk 10 lakh.
Fees have been proposed at Tk 2 lakh for settlement of a dispute involving more than Tk 200 crore, the upper slab.
At the workshop, representatives from different sectors including
universities, Consumers Association of Bangladesh and media opined that the amount of fees set out in the draft regulations would discourage common people from seeking justice in the disputes which involve small amount of money.
A major portion of the discussants at the workshop recommended for scrapping the provision of paying fees for
seeking justice at the tribunal as it was a fundamental duty of the BERC to ensure justice to all the consumers and utilities in energy sector.
A section of the discussants, however, proposed to split out the lowest slab so that a dispute involving up to Tk 100,000 could be settled through paying a fee of Tk 1,000 to the BERC.
BERC chairman Monowar Islam said that they would consider the recommendations and update the draft regulation before seeking vetting from the law ministry.
No fees are specified in the current regulations which were published in a gazette notification on April 20, 2016, said officials, adding the commission has now set fees for dealing with every specific case.
Shamsul Alam, an electric engineering professor and energy adviser of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said that it was an anti-people move as the fees might discourage people from seeking justice.
He criticised the energy commission for its motive for earning money from justice seekers and said that the move [setting rates of fees] was unlawful.
In the draft regulations, the BERC has also brought in a few other changes in authority and duties of the tribunal.
According to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Act- 2003, the BERC is entitled to settle disputes between utilities, between one or more utilities and one or more consumers and between consumers in the energy sector.
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