In­cor­rect city billing still caus­ing cut-offs and an­guish

El­derly spend weeks and years with­out power as of­fi­cials floun­der

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ANNA COX Wing Him Sam Mar­garet Bars­dorf Renee Meyer Natalie Sladek Sil­vio Brenno @an­na­cox

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

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