Is urban households' electricity payment behaviour different from rural households'?

An earlier post discussed the non payment of electricity bills in rural areas. The immediate question that follows is - why do urban households pay electricity bills? Rural households can be blamed for 'entitlement mindset', as in, using something for free without paying for it, even if they have capacity to pay, because they feel that electricity is an entitlement. Does that mean that bill paying urban middle class don't have that mindset?

Consider this scenario - the same urban households that pay electricity bills, don't pay for softwares, music, movies, TV shows, downloaded from internet. Often, they are downloaded using torrents or hacks or pirated versions. This is despite having the ability to pay for such services, in most cases. Why is that so? How is it any different from a rural household not paying electricity bill? 

At a behavioural level, there could be several reasons for non payment (Note: this is not to take people on a guilt trip and justify non payments of electricity bills)
1. If something is available for free, why spend money?: If TV shows can be downloaded freely, why spend money? If electricity can be used without paying for it, why pay for it?

2. Has ability to spend money but there are other priorities: One may have the capacity to spend but may feel that it's better to utilize it for other purpose. For instance, I may have Rs.500 in my bank account but I don't buy a TV show episode that costs Rs.500. Instead, I prefer it to download using torrents because I may feel that I can utilize Rs.500 for other purposes and not waste on something that's already available freely.

Similarly, a rural household may have the money to pay electricity but they may not pay it. However, the same rural household may decide to donate thousands to temple of local deity. Priorities!

3. Too expensive/ don't have money to pay: One may find the goods expensive. A rural household may find electricity expensive relative to their income levels and their perceived utility of power. Similarly, an urban household may find TV shows expensive, as per their perceived utility. May be because such shows and softwares are often priced in dollars and conversion into Indian rupees makes it worse.

4. Ease of payment: Ease of payment could be other issue. If one has to pay every time they buy an episode, it's cumbersome. Often, the decision to listen to a particular music is spontaneous, and you don't want to spend time doing the payment procedures!

Multiplicity of payments is another issue. May be you feel comfortable to pay at once, even though, the amount is larger, as compared to paying same amount in small amounts multiple times. The event of paying multiple times can be psychologically taxing because each time you feel that you are losing money, as opposed to paying everything at once.

5. Services have to be free: A final hypothesis is that people just feel that such services are to be free. This could again be because of two reasons - a normative reason based on ethical arguments that something has to be free OR a behaviour ingrained due to prolonged weak enforcement which makes you think that something has to be free because it was free always.

So, is urban households' electricity payment behaviour different from rural households'?  Yes and No. Because, the same households that pay electricity bills are exhibiting a different behaviour regarding other goods, similar to rural households' behaviour regarding electricity. There seem to be different types of goods and different groups of people seem to perceive them differently. There are contradictions some times - some people pay electricity bills but don't prefer paying for some other services. The human behaviour towards goods and payments is interesting and it needs to be understood in detail. Understanding such implicit tendencies can help shape behaviour better.

For instance, if psychological taxing due to multiplicity of payments or the ease of payments is proven to be significant, then Netflix type models, which require payment only once but give access to a range of shows, movies can be helpful. If the non payment is due to entitlement feeling rooted in the argument that something has to be free since it was free since forever, may be tightening enforcement can gradually shape behaviours..... and so on! May be we need a mixture of all. 

The point being, the causes for behaviour of non payment are not straight forward. We need to understand it in detail. More research is needed in this regard.

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