Norman Harsono, Jakarta – Consumers have criticized state-owned electricity firm PLN for a significant spike in electricity bills in June resulting from a new billing method and increased at-home work.
PLN data shows that about 258,000 households, all of which are on post-paid residential plans, saw a significant increase in their power bills. The company claimed this was because of higher electricity consumption at home as people avoided going out.
Hendrik Tampubolon, 33, an East Jakarta resident, showed a screenshot of his house's electricity bill in June. It had jumped fivefold to Rp 551,416 (US$39.1). His electricity bills over the three months before averaged about Rp 100,000.
"I use nine hours of air conditioning daily. That hasn't changed. Plus, I haven't added any new electronic devices," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
He said his effort to contact PLN customer service, including through the company's official Twitter account and its hotline last week, had not improved the situation. While the company promised to send an inspector to his house, the person had yet to show up.
Similarly, Putu Riza, a Youtube gadget reviewer based in Greater Jakarta, published a screenshot of his Rp 1.93 million June bill, more than double the previous month.
"Here's my bill, which is the highest ever throughout the work-from-home period, even though I've been working at home less," he wrote on his Twitter account @papersboy.
The spike in electricity bills has been attributed to PLN's new billing method, where it calculates monthly residential power bills based on consumption during the previous three months. The higher-than-usual consumption in April and May was billed in June.
The company has encouraged customers to self-report their electricity usage as an alternative to the new bill calculation method, but many have not done so, as noted by PLN and YLKI.
In June, a total of 4.3 million post-paid residential customers saw bills 20 percent higher than in the previous month.
The company's assessment of 2,200 complaints about high electricity bills in April concluded that 94 percent of the increases were proportional to increases in electricity consumption.
The proportionality contradicts customers' speculation that PLN has raised rates – expressed in rupiah per kilowatt hour (Rp/KwH) – at the request of the government.
"Consumers felt they were being cheated with a higher rate. There is no higher rate," said Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) chairman Tulus Abadi in a video statement on June 7.
However, Tulus urged PLN to improve its customer service because many consumer complaints were not processed properly. He also told affected consumers to contact PLN.
"Consumers should not be shy about asking PLN for clarity. That is our right," he said.
Because of the mounting complaints, PLN has pledged that it will relax payments for customers whose June bills rose by more than 20 percent.
PLN will now collect 40 percent of the eligible customers' bills this month. The remaining 60 percent will be charged equally over the following three months.
The company plans to offer the scheme to an estimated 1.93 million customers who saw spikes in their monthly electricity bills.
However, PLN senior executive vice president for customer service Yuddy Setyo Wicaksono, speaking on Monday, maintained that the higher power consumption was because of increased at-home work during the pandemic, as well as the Ramadan fasting period in May.
"People watched Korean dramas and played video games at home. These forms of entertainment are related to electricity usage when people avoid leaving home," he said, adding that consumers also used more electricity during the fasting month because people woke up before sunrise for predawn meals.