The Power and Energy
Ministry has set up a Consumer Consultative Committees (CCC)
through which electricity consumers can now present their
grievances and also offer suggestions and opinions to the Public
Utilities Commission - the regulatory authority covering the
power sector- for follow up action.
This indeed is a welcome move since hitherto the CEB had the
last word on all disputes with the consumers rendered helpless.
They (the consumers) now have the Consultative Committee which
will take matters to the PUC on their behalf. They can also
inform the PUC about power piracy and other illegal acts
pertaining to the use of electricity.
Launching the Consumer Consultative Committees Monday, Power
and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said with the
establishment of the Consultative Committee, acts of the CEB too
can be questioned and brought to the notice of the PUC. It is no
secret that some of the large scale power piracy taking place is
done with the connivance of CEB employees and these can now be
exposed by the public through the CCC.
Speaking on the occasion PUC Chairman Dr Jayatissa de Costa
said protecting the rights of power consumers is a priority in
the Mahinda Chintana Idiri Dekma Policy and to do so the active
participation of consumers is required.
The perennial problem confronting electricity consumers is
the high electricity bills. More often than not these inflated
bills are due to errors on the part of the CEB. But the public
so far has had no choice but to pay up. Now they have the CCC to
attend to their grievances who will function as an Ombudsman of
Indeed such a body to represent the electricity consumer was
a long-felt need. This is more so due to the arbitrary action by
the CEB that stood in judgement of disputes arising from various
problems such as inflated billing.
They (the consumers) were often not offered any relief such
as easy settlement terms of the disputed bills. In short, the
CEB lorded it over the consumers who did not have recourse to
relief. The CCC will now take up all matters pertaining to
disputes and intervene where necessary.
There is also a crying need for such a consumer body to be
represented in all other areas and not just the power sector.
Today, consumers are cheated in many ways and have no recourse
to relief. They are being overcharged,foisted with substandard
goods and even abused.
True, we have a Consumer Protection Authority but apart from
carrying out periodic raids on the premises of errant traders it
has manifestly failed to act as an effective deterrent to halt
the exploitation of the consumer who are being fleeced through
various ingenious methods.
Today, consumers are affected not merely by heavy pricing of
goods or short weight. They also run the risk of health hazards
due to poor quality of goods sold in the market. There is a big
question mark over the quality of some of the goods on the
shelves of the big supermarkets.
We often come across stories in the newspapers of outdated
items being sold and various objects found inside foods catered
to by upmarket eating houses. No doubt consumers also fall prey
to alluring advertisements to market products that are of
questionable health value.
Hence the need for a consumer protection body with sufficient
powers which would not only go into aspect of pricing but also
ensure proper safety standards.
As for the consumers themselves, they ought to get organized.
In most western countries there are powerful consumer lobbies
whose calls for boycott of goods are so effective that
manufacturers and traders are forced to fall in line. The lack
of such a body in our country has allowed the culprits to go
The Consumer Protection Authority for its part should be more
pro active where the interests and welfare of the consumers are
Instead of the occasional raid to nab some errant traders in
the Pettah it should expand its activities far and wide to
ensure the consumer is protected from exploitation and trade
Our consumers are already burdened by the high cost of
living. The least that could be done on their behalf is to
ensure that they get value for money.