Electricity bills blunder: Mooi River firms to fight demands for lump sums

2012-04-24 00:00

BUSINESS owners in Mpofana (Mooi River) are fuming after discovering the Mpofana Municipality wants to recover millions of rands from them after a system error messed up their electricity billing.

The municipality has been erroneously billing businesses based on old tariffs for the past eight months, and has now sent letters demanding they pay the difference backdated to July last year.

Democratic Alliance caucus leader Ken Denysschen said he has had a number of complaints.

“While the rates were adopted legally via a council resolution by the previous council, this was not put into the system and therefore those on bulk [supply] were not [correctly] charged,” he said.

Denysschen said businesses have been asked to make immediate payments of bills dating back eight months.

“The municipality has now just sent letters to people affected telling them, ‘Sorry, the system had an error’, and they have to pay a lump sum amount,” he said.

Denysschen advised the affected businesses to declare a dispute in terms of section 102 (2), which prohibits the municipality from charging interest or cutting them off until they have settled the outstanding amount.

He questioned how the error had not been picked up, noting that the council had effectively been losing VAT of 11,8 cents per kilowatt because it excluded VAT when it sold prepaid supply cards, which could not be recovered as a result of its technical error.

Virgil Chetty, a member of the steering committee for the Mpofana Business Forum, said businesses were not trying to avoid paying, but were worried about making the lump sum payments.

He said they were seeking legal advice because businesses do not have such large sums of cash readily available.

“If our members believe that the request from the municipality is unfair then they should declare a dispute as individuals.

“While a dispute has been declared the municipality can’t charge them interest,” he added.

Chetty said Weston College owed the municipality about R175 732.

Municipal manager Muzi Madlala admitted that there was a technical error.

“Upon realising the error we sent a notice to our bulk consumers to come forward to make arrangements, so it is not true that we have demanded for immediate payments,” said Madlala.

He said bulk users were the only ones affected, not residential users.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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