PIB ANALYSIS FOR UPSC CIVIL SERVICES EXAM
- Consumer Protection Bill 2018
- Smart Meter National Programme / Advanced metering Infrastructure
1 . Consumer Protection Bill 2018
Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution celebrates National Consumer Day 2018 with the theme “Timely Disposal of Consumer Complaints”
New Consumer Protection Bill passed by Lok Sabha will reduce cost and time of litigation and improve consumer grievance redressal process: Shri C. R. Chaudhary
Highlights of the Bill
- The Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The Bill enforces consumer rights, and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defect in goods and deficiency in services.
- Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions will be set up at the District, State and National levels for adjudicating consumer complaints. Appeals from the District and State Commissions will be heard at the next level and from the National Commission by the Supreme Court.
- The Bill sets up a Central Consumer Protection Authority to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights as a class. It can issue safety notices for goods and services, order refunds, recall goods and rule against misleading advertisements.
- If a consumer suffers an injury from a defect in a good or a deficiency in service, he may file a claim of product liability against the manufacturer, the seller, or the service provider.
- The Bill defines contracts as ‘unfair’ if they significantly affect the rights of consumers. It also defines unfair and restrictive trade practices.
- The Bill establishes Consumer Protection Councils at the district, state and national levels to render advise on consumer protection.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The Bill sets up the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions as quasi-judicial bodies to adjudicate disputes. The Bill empowers the central government to appoint members to these Commissions. The Bill does not specify that the Commissions will comprise a judicial member. If the Commissions were to have members only from the executive, the principal of separation of powers may be violated.
- The Bill empowers the central government to appoint, remove and prescribe conditions of service for members of the District, State and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions. The Bill leaves the composition of the Commissions to the central government. This could affect the independence of these quasi-judicial bodies.
- Consumer Protection Councils will be set up at the district, state, and national level, as advisory bodies. The State and National Councils are headed by Ministers in-charge of Consumer Affairs. The Bill does not specify whom the Councils will advise. If the Councils advise the government, it is unclear in what capacity such advice will be given.
2 . Advanced Metering Infrastructure / Smart Meter National Programme
Government plans to make all meters smart prepaid in 3 years
The Smart Meter National Programme is being implemented to deploy smart meters across the country. The scheme is being implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a JV of PSUs under Ministry of Power.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure
- AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) is the collective term to describe the whole infrastructure from Smart Meter to two way-communication network to control center equipment and all the applications that enable the gathering and transfer of energy usage information in near real-time. AMI makes two-way communications with customers possible and is the backbone of smart grid.
- The objectives of AMI can be remote meter reading for error free data, network problem identification, load profiling, energy audit and partial load curtailment in place of load shedding.
Building Blocks of AMI
AMI is comprised of various hardware and software components, all of which play a role in measuring energy consumption and transmitting information about energy, water and gas usage to utility companies and customers. The overarching technological components of AMI include:
- Smart Meters – Advanced meter devices having the capacity to collect information about energy, water, and gas usage at various intervals and transmitting the data through fixed communication networks to utility, as well as receiving information like pricing signals from utility and conveying it to consumer.
- Communication Network – Advanced communication networks which supports two way communication enables information from smart meters to utility companies and vice-versa. Networks such as Broadband over PowerLine (BPL), Power Line Communications, Fiber Optic Communication, Fixed Radio Frequency or public networks (e.g., landline, cellular, paging) are used for such purposes.
- Meter Data Acquisition System – Software applications on the Control Centre hardware and the DCUs (Data Concentrator Units) used to acquire data from meters via communication network and send it to the MDMS
- Meter Data Management System (MDMS) – Host system which receives, stores and analyzes the metering information.
- Operational Benefits – AMI benefits the entire grid by improving the accuracy of meter reads, energy theft detection and response to power outages, while eliminating the need for on-site meter reading.
- Financial Benefits – AMI brings financial gains to utility, water and gas companies by reducing equipment and maintenance costs, enabling faster restoration of electric service during outages and streamlining the billing process.
- Customer Benefits – AMI benefits electric customers by detecting meter failures early, accommodating faster service restoration, and improving the accuracy and flexibility of billing. Further, AMI allows for time-based rate options that can help customers save money and manage their energy consumption.
- Security Benefits-AMI technology enables enhanced monitoring of system resources, which mitigates potential threats on the grid by cyber-terrorist networks.
Despite its widespread benefits, deploying AMI presents three majors challenges that include high upfront investments costs, integration with other grid systems, and standardization.
- High Capital Costs:A full scale deployment of AMI requires expenditures on all hardware and software components, including meters, network infrastructure and network management software, along with cost associated with the installation and maintenance of meters and information technology systems.
- Integration: AMI is a complex system of technologies that must be integrated with utilities’ information technology systems, including Customer Information Systems (CIS), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Outage Management Systems (OMS), Work Management (WMS), Mobile Workforce Management (MWM), SCADA/DMS, Distribution Automation System (DAS), etc.
- Standardization: Interoperability standards need to be defined, which set uniform requirements for AMI technology, deployment and general operations and are the keys to successfully connecting and maintaining an AMI-based grid system
Implementation of SMNP
- The SMNP aims to replace India’s 250 million conventional meters with smart meters. The smart meters procurement will be procured by EESL. To begin with, the programme is initiated for the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, states with AT&C losses as large as 28.42% and 34.36% respectively.EESL’s proven model of bulk procurement, aggregation of demand, and monetisation of savings will be the approach to roll out smart meters. This roll-out is proposed under the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model, wherein EESL will undertake all the capital and operational expenditure with zero upfront investment from states and utilities.