Defaulters targeted again

2011-01-17 00:00

THE problem of the wrong-sized MCBs (main circuit breakers) being fitted at business premises emerged again last week when Msunduzi Municipality resumed Operation Pitbull to catch electricity defaulters.

A business in Church Street was given a bill for over R40 000 on the basis that it had been paying for a smaller MCB and not the larger one on its premises. The irate owner said he was not responsible for installing the MCB, nor had he ever requested a larger one.

More than 20 businesses faced with similar problems last year when Operation Pitbull began fought back in a campaign called “Now Bite Back”.

Several of the businesses successfully managed to get the amounts they were charged reduced as they were able to prove that they had not requested the larger MCBs on their properties.

From their experience, the team offers the following advice:

•Pay some money towards your account (the amount you usually pay).

•Go physically to the city’s billing office at 333 Church Street and lodge a dispute. (Phone calls don’t help; they will not be returned nor will there be any follow-up.)

•Once you have declared a dispute, you can ask for your “jacket” — this is the file the municipality has on each business from the time the owner moved to the property and had the electricity connected. You can check what size MCB you signed for and if there was any request over the years for a larger MCB to be installed. If the MCB on your property is not the one you signed for, your account will be adjusted accordingly.

According to the Now Bite Back team, the biggest problem is that the municipality is not communicating with the public.

“We phoned and asked for the by-laws and were given a set dated 1947. There are new by-laws but for some reason most people in the municipality don’t seem to know them,” said a team member.

He added that they had ascertained that there have been changes and advised the public not to be late with payment as this creates all sorts of problems, including having to pay for your electricity being disconnected and then re-connected. In addition there is the problem of the deposit then being increased to over R3 000.

They believe the municipality seems to be working on the idea that the less people know the more likely they are to panic and pay up.

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