WARNING: This is a whiney post. If you’re happy, don’t read it. It will make you mad.
We moved into our new house in September 2012. In the same week of moving house, I went to register our water and lights. I got an account number and received my first bill and I paid it like any good citizen would. I was aware that the rates did not reflect because when buying a house, it takes forever a few months for the rates to be transferred from the previous owner to yourself. Cool, no problem, I get that. The first rate payment reflected on my bill from the City of Johannesburg in February of 2013. According to my knowledge, everything was now up to date. Great.
When I received my bill in May 2013, I noticed that my electricity portion was not reflected. I was paying for water, rates and refuse but there was no electricity reflected on the bill. I called the call centre, they recorded the problem, told me it would be investigated and that everything would be sorted out on the next bill, I received a reference number and that was that. When my bill came in June, I was STILL not being billed for electricity. I called the call centre AGAIN, no one could understand WHY I wasn’t getting billed. I received all sorts of “possible” scenarios: perhaps you requested pre paid electricity? No I did not. Perhaps you haven’t paid your deposit for electricity? No, I have an account number and I was being billed perfectly prior May 2013. Perhaps you didn’t have any usage this month? What. No. Don’t be stupid. I was told that the problem would be escalated. I was more concerned that a: I was going to get a HUGE bill when this issue resolved itself and b: I didn’t want my lights getting cut because someone woke up some day and realised that I hadn’t paid a bill in however many months.
To save you and I the bore of rehashing the story, I called the call centre every 2 weeks between June 2013 and December 2013. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, could explain what the problem was. NO ONE could HELP. NO ONE was kind enough to even TRY to figure it out. I WANTED to give the City of Joburg my money, I wanted to be a law abiding citizen and pay my bills on time. But NO ONE seemed to care. Every time I called the call centre, I had to explain the story from scratch, even with my millions of reference numbers, there was no continuity, and my frustration levels were THROUGH the roof. Surely call centre staff are trained to at least SOUND sympathetic to the plight of their customers. Every time I called the call centre, I got another nobody who yawned through my conversation, who could only tell me that they would escalate my problem. Don’t ask me how high my problem had been escalated to. Then I would be put on hold until I eventually hung up – I think this was their intention. Is that the purpose of the City of Joburg call centre? To merely act as a recording station? To take the compliant down and issue a reference number? Do they not ACT in sorting out your complaint? Do they not facilitate the problem solving? Or do I have it wrong? Through all of this, I continued to pay the municipality bill I was receiving for my property monthly. But still I was not getting charged for electricity and NO ONE in the whole of the City of Joburg could help me.
In December, I received a hysterical email from the previous owner of my property. She had received a whopper of a bill from CoJ, dating back almost a year. She had also received a final demand, stating that the electricity to MY property would be cut if the bill wasn’t paid. She had attached the bill and the final demand for me to see. Yes, they had billed her for months and months of electricity which should have been billed to me (all in one invoice – nice Christmas present, right). But wait, that’s not all. They were billing her for water, rates and refuse too. And what they were billing her, was different to what they were billing me for those periods. So. I have to ask. How in heaven’s name can you firstly charge a person who’s account should not even be LIVE for a property they sold over a year ago? Secondly, who pressed what button and broke it, because everything WAS working to begin with, I WAS getting charged electricity at some stage, so it’s not like this was a problem from day 1. Someone pressed something and changed something. Thirdly, HOW can you bill TWO people for ONE property? Fourthly, HOW can the amounts be different? Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say there was a system error and we were both getting billed, surely the readings should be the same? HOW and WHERE are they even getting these amounts from? AND which bill is correct? This puts all types of doubt in my mind about how we, as poor customers, could possibly be getting messed about, because we just ACCEPT that the usage is correct?
I have been into a walk-in centre TWICE. STILL no one can help. No one knows what the HECK is going on. The previous owner has been into a walk-in centre and also has a dozen reference numbers from the call centre – remember, it’s HER name that is been dragged through the mud for a bill she is not even liable for – she too, has had no joy. In the mean time, there is a final demand sitting on MY property – for a bill I have never ever received? Oh wait, the one time I went into the walk-in centre, they should have opened at 8am, and at 8h15 the doors were still locked and staff hadn’t arrived! After waiting for THEM to make a grand entrance, I was told that sorry, Dorcas wasn’t in today and she was the only one who could fix the problem! What a joke!
But the BEST part is that on my last visit into a walk-in centre, they had the audacity to tell me that I shouldn’t worry, I could make payment arrangements when everything was sorted out, as long as I pay 30% upfront of the total owing. I would have laughed if I wasn’t feeling so venomous at the time! I must pay for something that was never my fault to begin with! I must pay penalties and make “payment arrangements” for a late payment that had NOTHING to do with me? I could possibly face legal action / electricity being cut because I can’t afford to pay thousands of rands in one go – through NO fault of my own? Seriously? Ok like seriously, am I being punked?
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to call, write to, address this issue with. I tweeted the CoJ a few days ago, the “person” on the other side responded to my tweet saying they would get back to me with a person to contact… still waiting for a response.
How does one deal with a municipality who clearly has NO COOKING CLUE! If this is the state of our municipalities, it’s no wonder that our country and our government are in such a shambles. I thought about “Hello Peter-ing” my complaint… but you have to see the number of complaints up against CoJ, with no response to any of the complainants. Clearly, their customers are not their number 1 priority!
So my fellow electricity-using-municipality-paying-law-abiding-citizen readers… any bright ideas? (Pun intented) What would you do?