Billing woes for local man

DISAPPOINTED: "I switched to prepaid a long time ago and they made me settle my bill. Now they just surprised me with these ridiculous bills," said Pierre Sanan.

ANOTHER residents of the South has been shocked and stressed by what he calls a R1-million billing mistake made by the people from City Power and COJ, but it cannot be fixed.

Stafford resident, Pierre Sanan, said he realised he nearly had a heart attack after receiving a bill of over R1 million but he had long made a successful switch to prepaid – and this, after following the necessary lengthy steps that led to him being asked to settle his account due and then receiving a prepaid meter.

Pierre said he is more stressed by the fact that a lot of people who have these kinds of problems visit City Power offices and come across staff that cannot fix the problems but tell customers that there will be an investigation and from there a customer does not get any proper feedback.

“To make a switch to prepaid, I had to go through the processes whereby they make sure that my account is in order and once everything is good to go, they then come and install a prepaid meter. Which means I should not be getting any of these bills because I settled what they said was due a long time ago.

“I applied to make the switch to prepaid last year on Thursday, December 3 2015, and on Thursday, January 28 2016, they came and fitted a prepaid meter and then I started paying in advance. But still, I operate a small office with only a little fridge and very little lights being used and you can see on all my previous bills that my bills for each month were mostly in the region of R300 and R400. Where did they ever get this bill for R1 392 445 which they sent in July?”

“What is more saddening is that in July, they also send the first bill for 0.00 and then followed it up with the ridiculous R1-million bill. Nonetheless, I went and complained and they later sent some people here who kept taking photos of the meter. Those people didn’t even explain anything to me. Later in September I received a bill for R85 186, followed by another one for R90 870. What is wrong with these people? I am on prepaid!”

“Another thing I want them to note is that their people’s attitude is bad and they are rude. They do not even admit that City Power is wrong. When there is a mistake, they are powerless to rectify it. A customer is supposed to live with that mistake forever because they just keep saying we will audit it and then keep sending guys to take pictures of a meter outside – why? Need I repeat that I am on prepaid?” asked Pierre.

Billing issues

In the past, the COURIER heard complaints from frustrated customers such as Pierre who claimed that billing mistakes were not being fixed and the administration staff had no options or power in their system to rectify these kinds of mistakes but forward such complaints to another department. That, of course, makes some sense, otherwise people would just be scrapping bills without going through proper procedures, hence, the COURIER prepared a list of questions to the spokesperson of the state-owned Entity, Yumna Sheik, to try and understand more about the billing processes.

City Power

A list of questions are still to be answer by City Power, the COURIER will communicate with the City of Johannesburg to try and understand the steps that go into drafting a bill because according to Hloni Motloung from City Power, City Power does the reading and sends the information to the City for billing.

“In this case we will have to go back to the customer to check meter reading and send updates to the City. But in instances where you asking about a billing crisis, we cannot answer that because we will be speculating as we do not deal with the City’s billing.

“I will prepare a response on behalf of City Power and respond to questions relating to our area of expertise only, but first, our metering department will have to investigate this query and provide us with the answers to be able to respond to you,” said Hloni.

Previous encounters

In 2014, the former mayor and mayoral committee were slapped with a fine of R50 000 after the City failed to fix an erroneous account as the court had ordered. The COURIER also came across numerous southerners who had problems with their bills. Some of them were worried about the threat of their power being cut off even though they believed there was a mistake on the bill.

A South Hills man once told his story about how he would have to leave work and rush back home in an attempt to convince contractors sent to cut his power that there was a misunderstanding and he had made arrangements with the City.

The COURIER will follow this and keep writing about the developments just as the people of the South’s paper is following the issue of old age homes to hopefully see a separate budget being allocated to look after the facilities of the elderly.

Mayor Mashaba’s plans

Mayor Herman Mashaba has already spoken about the City of Johannesburg’s billing problems and has informed the media that there are too many people who can afford to pay their bills but are refusing to do so because there are too many flaws in their bills. The mayor plans to introduce a better system so that such people would have no problem paying their dues and subsequently that revenue will be used to improve infrastructure and service delivery in the city.

The COURIER will follow up.

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James Mahlokwane

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