Incorrect city billing still causing cut-offs and anguish
Elderly spend weeks and years without power as officials flounder
CITY of Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba has promised to resolve the billing crisis by December. However, The Star’s Metrowatch has been inundated with e-mails and calls from frustrated residents who told of the misery the billing problem was causing them.
I’m an elderly senior citizen who is on chronic medication for diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. I’m 72 years of age and live in Mayfair with my 74-year-old brother who is hypertensive and receiving an old-age government pension.
We inherited the house from our mother who passed away in November 2007. Our problem is with the billing of the electricity and water on our account number for R71 000. My brother and l live in one part of a semi and share the rates, lights and water account.
We pay the bill every month and have no problems with that account. However, the billing of the lights and water in the vacant and unoccupied semi is incorrect. Nobody lives there. The account is in my name. In 2015, l made two requests for level three disconnections for electricity and water. The electricity was cut in September 2015.
In December that year, l received a bill of R882.19 in spite of the fact that the electricity had been cut. l queried the statement at the customer service centre in Thuso House, Braamfontein, and was told by an operator that the meter had not been removed. After consulting her superior, she took me upstairs to a legal person who consulted her superior and made arrangements.
The meter was removed on December 12 last year. In February, they still billed me R938.15. On April 11, l wrote a letter to the city manager who referred me to an official who confirmed the meter had been removed and the council was still billing me.
The water meter was also cut and removed. My next statement was for R12 084, followed by one for R34 665 and another for R38 070. The latest June statement reflects the amount outstanding as R69 856. There is no electricity and no water in the unoccupied section. How can l pay for something l have never received?
I sold my property in Turffontein in May last year. I have been unable to get a final account from City Power. I have even hired someone, who specialises in helping clear up problems with Joburg municipal accounts. The city were charging me business tariffs on a residential account.
We live in Halfway Gardens ext 4, Midrand, in a street where there is a hotel and two panhandle stands. We have always had issues with the municipality where they bill us incorrectly, either R80 000 bills for electricity that belongs to the hotel or R40 000 bills for water for the panhandle behind us.
The electricity has been sorted out since they installed the new meters a couple of months ago so there is no issue with that, but our water is a constant issue. Since January this year, there has been an issue with our water being extremely high. Our meter is at the corner of our house at the start of the panhandle, but every time the municipality comes to read the water meter, they read the wrong one.
We waited one month for them to come and read the meters and we spoke to one of the staff members who acknowledged that they read the wrong meter every time.
Our electricity has been disconnected for nearly seven weeks now due to our bill being nearly R47 000. Our bill is incorrect. We have been billed incorrectly since 2013 and we have tried on various occasions to get it sorted out. We made a payment on March 14 as the account was more than R30 000.
The municipality said it would sort it out but we never heard from them again. We then received a call from a debt collector who advised us that our electricity was going to be disconnected.
We never heard from the person again and our services were disconnected. Our bill is now R46 000 and we cannot afford putting down a 50% acknowledgement of debt because this is not our account. I logged a call with City of Joburg Water Department to locate our water supply and meter.
It did resolve the job ticket and came to the conclusion that my meter and water supply was indeed from another meter number. I then went to the municipal offices at Midrand and explained the whole situation to them and asked them to please assist in fixing my account as there is evident proof now that I was wrongfully billed for the wrong meter.
The woman then advised me that there was nothing she could do as they were only admin and everything goes through back office. She then logged a new service ticket for back office to write off the water debt on my account because it was evident that the amount was incorrect indeed.
She advised that it could take up to 30 days to sort out the issue. As a last resort, I phoned the debt collectors to try to get the services reconnected and she said she could not do anything. My grandfather is nearly 80 years old and he has been without electricity for nearly seven weeks.
My parents, Tomas and Lola Sladek bought a house in Yeoville many years back and have been living there since. We received a ridiculous bill of an unusually high amount of payment to be made. My mother’s been up and down to City Power to enquire about it and get some help with this and the electricity was cut off. My parents have been living without electricity for about four years since then with no assistance from City Power or from anyone else. The last time we queried the account we were told that my parents were frauds.
On December 6 last year, I received an invoice for R14 728. I queried this on the basis that my meter readings had been incorrectly read and the amounts charged were excessive, Since then, the average monthly consumption has usually been 400kW to 490kW a month.
The amounts disputed as a result of incorrect readings are: April 2016, 780kW; June 2016, 645kW; July 2016, 793kW; November 2016, 9 761kW; January 2017, 1 496kW. Actual meter readings do not correspond with the ones we have. The meters are working properly. They are just being read incorrectly.
As a result I have a continual threat to cut off my electricity supply. On July 28, I paid R24 242 to clear the incorrect outstanding amount. The incorrect charges and pre-termination notices are an unwarranted harassment and possible extortion action for which I reserve my rights.
Last time, we were told my parents were frauds