First Look Blog

Articles written by the First Look team.


COMMON CAUSE OF INCORRECT BILLING - 1. CHANGE OF WATER METER

Published by Ken Nunes on 30/08/2018

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The article published by Suntricity on the 25th August 2018 titled COJ Incorrect Billing, highlighted 5 Categories of Common Causes for Billing Errors of the COJ Invoice for Schools.

The article briefly describes each of the 5 Categories, where a further and deeper understanding of each Category is felt necessary.

This article therefore focuses on the most common cause of COJ Billing Irregularities: CHANGE OF WATER METER.

A Change of Water (or Electricity) Meters is necessary as a result of one of the following:

1.  Meter Stops Reading– In general, directly related to the age of the meter.

2.  Meter has been vandalised– This is listed this under a separate category and will be explained in more detail in a future article.

3.  Municipality Policy to Upgrade to Smart Meters– New meters (Water or Electricity) read more accurately and provide a series of additional data.

In the majority of cases, Item 1 is the most common reason for the change of a water meter.

THE PROCESS:

In principle, the following process unfolds:

1.  REPORTING THE PROBLEM:

     a.  School (CONSUMER) Reports Water Meter has stopped registering consumption.

          i.  Should a meter malfunction be discovered, it is strongly recommended that the School keeps photographic evidence on the discovery of the problem, updated daily and reported to COJ Call Centre 0860 56 28 74​​. You will be given a 0800 Reference Number.

     b.  Where schools do not keep track of their meter readings, the malfunction of the meter is detected by the Municipality, although this could take two of maybe three months.

     c.  The longer the fault detection is discovered, the more problematic the eventual solution will become, as estimated consumption becomes necessary between the time the meter stops functioning properly and the date the meter is changed.

     d.  It should be noted that the responsibility for water meter readings is that of Joburg Water and Electricity that of City Power. The Municipality totally relies on these service providers to correctly read utility meters. Both service providers have their individual “job cards” which is a record of all works carried out. 

     e.  It should also be noted that Consumers have no direct relationship with either Joburg Water nor City Power, and in the event of a dispute, the Municipality “hides behind the veil” of these services providers, who are (at times) unable to provide the necessary “job cards” to prove work has been carried out.

2.  CHANGE OF METER:

     a.  The responsible service provider (Joburg Water or City Power) will eventually change the malfunctioning meter.

     b.  Details of the Old meter FINAL READING and New Meter START READING are report to COJ for billing purposes.

          i.  It should be noted that the school is never notified when the change will take place. However, it is important that a representative of the school is present when the change eventually takes place and to further document photographic evidence of the removed meter. This is crucial in the event of any eventual dispute.

3.  MUNICIPAL BILLING:

     a.  When the New Water Meter appears on the Monthly Municipal Invoice for the first time, both the OLD and NEW Meters are referenced.

     b.  This process will generally takes between 4 to 6 months, although it has been known to take much longer.

     c.  During the period before the New Meter appears, all monthly Municipal accounts are ESTIMATED. 

CONCLUSION:

When the New Meter eventually appeared on the Municipal Invoice, some very serious problems unfolded, as can be seen on the above Invoice extract, where we have highlighted the resulting problems.

The seriousness and total disarray of the account is clear to see:

  • The Municipality has presented the School, with an Invoice for R5,435,976.42, for a period of 19-months. 
  • The truly unbelievable cost of Water at the school is R286,104.00 per month.
  • The Invoice is backdated to 580-days, for no apparent reason.

Fortunately, in this particular instance, photographic evidence is available to prove the Municipality’s errors. However, after several months and too many hours of frustrated discussions with the COJ, resolution of the account is still awaited COJ.

Suntricity has documented several instances of the same problems at schools, created as the result of what after all, is a simple CHANGE OF METER

We have deliberately edited the account details not wanting to disclose the identity of the School.