Ratepayers up in arms over BCM billing estimates
Fed-up Buffalo City Metro ratepayers have started an online petition urging the metro to change its billing system.
A number of irate residents claim the city has overcharged households in Bhisho, King William’s Town, Mdantsane and parts of East London. The online petition had been signed by 2,300 people by Monday afternoon. It was started on May 8 by King William’s Town resident Nhlanhla Mosele on Change.org.
In an interview with DispatchLIVE on Monday, Mosele said the problem started in 2016.
“We did not take it seriously back then, but more people started complaining and I took it upon myself to challenge this.”
He has contacted BCM to ask why ratepayers' bills were so high, but months later, has yet to receive an explanation.
“I was just told to take a picture of my meter reading and after that I have been sent from pillar to post while our water bill increases.”
Mosele said many residents have fallen victim to estimated meter readings.
“They just estimate some readings, especially in suburbs. Some families have been billed R12,000. Something is wrong in their capturing system. They need to suspend it and investigate.”
The petition aims to mobilise ratepayers in BCM to protect themselves from incorrect readings for electricity and water consumption, Mosele said.
“We demand justice from the municipality for wrongfully billing us incorrectly with excessive charges for water and electricity. We demand that while the city investigates the incorrect billing, it halts any estimated billing from happening.”
Mosele further demanded the municipality visits properties that have lodged billing disputes to inspect meters and take readings.
“During this period we do not expect any billing of water to take place as it will be in contravention of the Municipal Systems Act.”
Sunset Bay resident Zukile Ngwaja has been at war with the metro ever since January, when his water bill increased from R1,800 to R15,000.
“In one month the water bill jumped by R13,000, and I do not understand why. It has not been sorted yet, and it is getting worse. In April I was charged R15,000. Even if we go to inquire at the municipality, they do not give any hope. I was just told to pay the amount I had been usually paying before all of this.”
Ngwaja said after several complaints there was still no adjustment on his latest statements.
“I usually pay my account at a retail store but now I must go to the municipality to make arrangements because if I continue to pay at the shops, it does not reflect on my account and I will end up in arrears. This is bad and it is not our fault.”
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the metro was not yet aware of the petition.
“The municipality has a policy which states that in the event where an actual meter reading is not taken, the consumer is billed on their average readings of the past 12 months.”
Ngwenya said the metro was about to undertake roadshows in connection with billing “whereby we were going to teach consumers about our finance policies, indigent registration and consumer rights" but this was before Covid-19.
“This process will continue again when things are back to normal.”
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