Since the Movement Control Order (MCO) started back in March, many services were halted, including electricity bill reading by Tenaga National Berhad (TNB)'s staff.
In May, many Malaysians complained about abnormally high electricity bills despite the 2 per cent discount for domestic users and up to 15 per cent discount for selected businesses and industries which is supposed to be in effect between 1 April and 30 September 2020 under the Prihatin programme.
When the issue of high electricity bills was brought up last month, TNB said that it was because since the MCO started, households have been receiving an estimated bill since their staff were not able to physically check the metres.
What's an estimated bill? Well, the bill you received between February and May were estimated based on previous usage.
The thing is because most of us were stuck at home or were working from home the last few months, and the actual electricity bill was probably much higher than the estimated sum.
When bill readings were resumed by TNB staff, the excess, which was not yet billed, was added to the latest bill.
Then, whatever amount that has been paid and discounts entitled under the Prihatin programme were deducted from the latest bill as well.
TNB has even created a FAQ page to explain this and the method they use to calculate the bill.
The energy company has also denied that electricity bills have increased by up to 600 per cent, saying that the actual numbers was closer to 120 per cent.
TNB chief corporate officer Datuk Wira Roslan Ab Rahman reportedly said that his staff have met with consumers to explain how the bills were calculated.
He added that the company is bound by Energy Commission's regulations, and as such cannot calculate bills arbitrarily.
What's the problem?
While TNB's explanation seems logical, what doesn't seem to add up is the ridiculously high bills people have been getting.
The question that is being brought up now is how any household could incur bills that are way higher than usual, some claiming that their bills have shown a few hundred percent increase.
Some pointed out that the method used by TNB is unfair, as "everyone will reach the 3rd tariff block', which will increase the electricity bill by leaps.
If you haven't noticed or never had the reason to, your electricity tariff increases with usage. For the first 200kWh, you will be paying 21.80 cents per kWh, 33.80 cents per kWh for the next 100 and so on if it's for households. You can refer to the image below and find out about tariffs for other categories here.
So, what the consumers are arguing is that, when the usage is accumulated for three months, the tariff will reach the third block (i.e. 300kWh and more) of usage, which would be unfair.
If these consumers are correct about their assumptions, the method used may very well be unfair, to say the least.
However, if we look at TNB's calculation, a prorated system is used to offset any unfairness.
According to their chart, the accumulated amount for the three months is then divided by 3.03 to offset this.
The calculation goes something like this: The 91 days in that period is divided by 30 to get the prorated factor of 3.03. This factor is then factored into the calculation of your bill.
So, if your usage is 950kWh cumulatively for the three months, each tariff block will be prorated by 3.03.
All these still does not explain the ridiculosly high bills some people have claimed to have received so the next question is:
What can you do?
If you have noticed an unusual or what you feel is an unfair or illogical increase to your electricity bills, joining the others to make noise on social media - especially by tagging the relevant bodies such as TNB and the Energy Commission - is a great start.
This would create conversation and get the attention of the authorities.
However, don't stop there. Contact TNB for explanation via TNB CareLine at 1300 885 454 (we're not sure this works 'cos we tried but could not get through) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also log on to myTNB app or visit the myTNB portal at mytnb.com.my.
If you prefer face to face interactions, visit the nearest Kedai Tenaga. To use the TNB Bill Calculator, go to tnb.com.my/prihatin.
You should also make an official complaint to the Energy Commission here, so they can look into the matter and take action if necessary.