Shock electricity bills explained

2010-08-24 00:00

SHOCK, panic, confusion and outrage has been the reaction of most Maritzburg residents to their July electricity accounts.

The Witness has been inundated with calls from residents who say they are not getting adequate explanations from the municipality about their bills that have quadrupled.

Causing the most confusion is the adjustment for water and electricity deposits that many householders found on their bills. They asked why, if they already paid a deposit when they moved into their homes, they are being asked to pay an additional deposit now.

Msunduzi Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma explained that this adjustment is not for every household, but only for those who have not paid their accounts on time in the past. In other words, the adjustment is only if the account is not up to date. The municipality is increasing the deposit to cover the deficit.

This amount is dependent on how much electricity is used in the household. So some may have an adjustment of R500, others R1 000 or more.

Zuma said arrangements can be made to pay this amount in instalments. This deposit will be refunded when the resident moves out of the house and if their municipal account is up to date.

Residents are also shocked by the exponential increase in their electricity and water accounts.

T. Govender, who called The Witness, gave the following example:

“In June we were invoiced R34 342 for electricity and in August we were invoiced R108 460. The average for past 10 months is 32%. The present increase effective August is 68%. This increase will effect 32 employees who will find themselves unemployed or will mean a relocation of our business.”

Govender’s reaction echoes many calls received by The Witness.

According to explanations from the municipality, the reason for the high bills is that the July account also reflects the 29% increase granted to Eskom by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa. It reflects the municipality’s own tariff increases as well as a billing tariff used by by Eskom.

Eskom charges the municipality a time-of-use tariff. In July, it quadrupled its account to the municipality, dubbing this increase its “winter tariff”. The cash-strapped municipality then had to sell electricity to its own consumers at Eskom’s winter tariff rate

There is also widespread consternation that the deposits for all new accounts have increased between R1 000 and R3 000.

Asked whether the municipality had advertised the increased tariffs, Zuma they were advertised in The Witness on Friday 23 July.

In past years the municipality published its entire tariff breakdown in a supplement in the newspapers.

This year it could not follow that format because there was no money to pay for a supplement. Instead the notice said that the revised tariff lists are available for inspection and gave a list of places were they are on display.

The legal notice was published 23 days after the due date for the implementation of the tariffs because the municipality had no budget as required by the law and the new turnaround team had to step in and get one done.

In response to consumer complaints that there is no customer service at the municipality to deal directly with queries on the July bills, Zuma provided two numbers.

The numbers to call for queries on accounts are: Naren Singh at 033 392 5032 or Sewdutt Nagasar at 033 392 5002.




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