June 15, 2018
Having electricity and decent water supply is a necessity for all the families. For any family with access to both, their income is budgeted to include regular payments of utility bills.
Through consistent payment of bills, an individual or family can gauge how much they have to pay in a month.
For those whose bills have been fairly consistent, receiving highly priced bills can come as a surprise.Such was the case of a Waila resident who was left gobsmacked after he found out his water bill was $1,015 instead of the usual $30-$50. He couldn’t understand why the bill had increased to such an amount as the flat was vacant for a long period of time.
The complainant raised the issue with the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) in 2016, as according to him, the bill could not have reached that amount seeing that the flat was vacant.
He was informed by WAF that an assessment would be conducted before any decision could be made.Initially WAF had claimed that the bill was for nine months.
They also claimed that the meter number was missing on the reading sheet.
The complainant then sought the Consumer Council of Fiji’s assistance in February 2018. He still believed the amount was wrongly charged to his account.
During this time he continued to make payments on the bill he received two years ago.Through mediation with WAF, it was found that the complainant had made regular payments on the account in question and that the meter number on the bill had changed.
As a result, a substantial charge was reflected on his bill. Through further assessment, it was found that there were 2 water meters on site and a WAF officer did a swap reading that caused the bill to increase.Due to the error in reading, the complainant was billed a substantial amount. WAF’s internal evaluation determined there was an error in the bills.
They then made a credit adjustment, which was reflected on the complainant’s new bill.
The Council has received numerous complaints from consumers with reference to high bills.There are cases where service providers have taken advantage of vulnerable consumers who do not understand how to read their bills, hence, would not question why their bill is exorbitant.
There are instances where leakage has served as a result of highly priced bills and most times consumers are unaware and fail to fix the issue in a timely manner.Consumers have the responsibility to be vigilant.
They must deal with dissatisfaction or unfair treatment given to them by any trader or service provider.It is crucial that consumers know how to read their bills. Understanding what different parts of the bills reflect will give consumers a fair understanding of how much electricity or water they have used and if the corresponding bill is reasonable.It is imperative that consumers raise their concerns should they find bills are unreasonable.
Some necessary checks to consider when dealing with utility bills are listed as follows:
- See that usage is clearly stated on the bill You are being billed for the same meter number
- Raise your query with the respondent immediately if you are not clear.
- If you are unable to resolve your complaint with the first person you contact, you should raise the matter to some superior.
- Always check the pipes for any leakages, as this will also contribute to high water bills.
- Always retain copies of your bills and receipts for payments made.
- Always keep copies of correspondences made with the service provider.Service providers are also warned to comply with the national laws and not to take advantage of vulnerable consumers.
They must be amenable to provide redress to aggrieved consumers in a timely manner instead of giving them a run around.Consumers are advised to call on the Council’s National Consumer Helpline toll free number 155 or email email@example.com should they wish to lodge a complaint.
Alternatively they can visit our offices in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa to register their grievances.
*Please be advised that the Consumer Council of Fiji will be moving to its new office at Level 5, Vanua House, Victoria Parade, Suva, from 28 May.