Consumers at receiving end as ATP machines 'cheat'

Consumers at receiving end as ATP machines 'cheat'

Have you ever received any electricity bill again (as unpaid) though you have paid the bill promptly in the innovative ATP machines? If so, then you may be a victim of a customer support persons, posted outside the ATP machine to guide people pay the electrictiy bill.

According to a complaint with the Pandeshwar police station, the customer support person Chennappa Naika posted at Attavar ATP point, cheated Rs 4,15,692 (from those who came to pay electricity bills through ATP machine).

The modus operandi of the accused was to collect money from the consumers and make the bill only for Rs 100 (or a negligible amount) and pay the same to Mescom and keep the balance with him.

The accused also cheated the consumers by entering wrong Revenue Register (RR) Number (for example, instead of entering JL 1432, the accused entered JL 4132) and swindled the consumers’ money.

The unsuspecting consumer will come to know that he has been cheated only in the next month when the Mescom issues the customer double bill with penalty for not paying the bill. In a few cases, the incident came to light when Mescom officials went to disconnect the power supply.

In fact, the incident came to light on January 1, 2013, when a Mescom official suspectes foulplay as the bill amount collected at ATP did not tally. Immediately, the Mescom pulled up M/s Smart Detective and Allied Service (India) Private Limited (a sister concern of ADD Technologies Limited), who had supplied ATP machines to Mescom and also appointed the customer support persons to help consumers, who come to pay the bill.

The private firm fearing a black mark on its image (fearing cancellation of franchise (?) as they have supplied several machines to Mescom) immediately paid the full amount to Mescom. As a result, the Mescom too did not bother to pursue the case, according to sources.

The case took a new turn when the cheques issued by accused Chennappa to Mescom bounced.As the mediation and several rounds of talks failed, the police finally registered a case against Chennappa Naika and Sushmitha (who was also on duty as a customer support person, during the said period of misappropriation), based on a complaint filed by Smart Detective and Allied Service (India) Pvt Ltd Field Supervisor M Ramesh Shetty.

Only cheating case

Quite interestingly, the police have registered only a case of cheating against Chennappa whereas the issue is much more serious, especially pertaining to ATPs.

In fact, a minor error while entering the RR Number in the ATP machine may prove costly for consumers and hardly a few consumers check whether the RR Number entered in the bill is right or wrong. (In many cases, maids pay the bill and they hardly check the RR Number in the bill).

On the other hand, consumers find it difficult to prove that they have paid the bill as the bills fade within a week and they become invisible in a month (just like the one available in most of the ATMs).

Though 27 persons have approached the Mescom after they realised that they have been cheated, there may be many more consumers, who may not have been realised yet that they have been cheated.

Sources in the department say that unless there is thorough enquiry into the issue, not only in Mangalore, but also in other regions where ATPs have been installed, there are possibilities of many more consumers being cheated.

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