Security deposit bungle, check your bills

03/05/2012 14:33

The Consumer Council is urgently calling on all Fiji Electricity Authority customers to thoroughly check their bills for at least the last six months after receiving complaints from customers where FEA had overcharged on the additional security deposit.

The Council is concerned that FEA has the audacity to remind customers of outstanding additional security deposit while its billing system is fraught with errors at the expense of innocent customers. The FEA had a newspaper advertisement today (03/05/2012) reminding customers to pay the security deposit by 31st May or risk disconnection. It belies common sense for FEA to remind customers about the security deposit deadline when its billing system has been compromised.

In one complaint case received by the Council, FEA had admitted “accidently” charging the customer about $106.93 when his required additional security deposit was only $64.16. In another case customer had paid his security deposit of $71.55, but in his next bill $47.66 appeared as payable security deposit. These and other cases prompted the Council to call on all FEA customers to check their bills since the imposition of the additional security deposit to ensure that they have been correctly billed and that they have not overpaid. What is worrying is that there is a high chance that many customers are not checking their bills or not noticing any errors by FEA. Customers who may have been overcharged may also be facing disconnection for late or nonpayment of their bills which may be erroneously high due to FEA’s blunder. Furthermore, the FEA customer bills only show the ‘additional security deposit’ as a line item, yet nowhere in the bill does it provide an account of how much deposit has been paid and how much is owed. Yet it places customers on notice regarding the due date of the security deposit.

The Consumer Council had also received complaints where FEA deviated from the timeline and fixed monthly amounts paid for the security deposit. Some customers were paying double what they were promised to pay by FEA per month for a six month period.

The Council is concerned that complaints it had received had a common problem; security deposit amounts kept appearing as a billing item. Unsuspecting consumers are going ahead to pay their bills without noticing the anomaly. Consumers are urged to check the amount that FEA had originally set as their additional security deposit and deduct what they have paid so far. This is a necessary task which all responsible consumers should be doing. What annoys the Council is that FEA appears to be keeping quiet on the issue of overbilling, yet has the nerve to put out a paid newspaper advertisement to remind customers of the deadline for security deposit.

FEA has not taken any responsibility for its billing errors both past and present. Instead of publicly admitting that there have been errors in the billing system for security deposit, it arrogantly goes ahead with a newspaper advertisement reminding customers of their outstanding security deposit.