File Picture: Zanele Zulu / African News Agency
File Picture: Zanele Zulu / African News Agency

Teething issues for Durban's new electricity meter-reading app

By Adryan Ogle Time of article published Feb 22, 2020

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Durban - Don’t expect smooth operation just yet from the eThekwini municipality’s new app for electricity meter reading submissions.

“The meter reading submissions app was launched last week, however, we are still in the testing phase to resolve minor glitches,” said eThekwini spokesman, Msawakhe Mayisela.

Previously, ratepayers could SMS their readings to 30909 or email the metro’s electricity customer care address. The latest adjustment involves visiting a new website that has mapped the city into categories: Central Durban, Northern, North-Western, Western, South-­Western and Southern.

Based on location, customers are provided with a new email address to submit their readings. When using the website, ratepayers have to submit their account number, the date of the meter reading, the meter reading and their mobile contact numbers.

The change has come about to combat some challenges faced with the previous system.

“Our SMS number had been giving us technical difficulties in the last few months, hence it was required for us to have an alternative in place,” said Mayisela.

The social media announcement upset locals who complained of being charged for more than their actual usage.

Debbie Majoor said the last time her meter was actually read and recorded was in August.

“That means that by the end of February, my electricity has been an assessed amount for six months. This is absolutely unacceptable and inefficiency of the highest order,” Majoor said.

Majoor, like other ratepayers, also felt the municipality was charging more than necessary to have an increased cash flow.

“Perhaps the reason why our electricity bills have not reduced, which they should have, is because they are purposely not reading our electricity meters and not taking our readings from the emails which we send, so they can still get the same revenue each month,” she said.

However, the municipality said: “Residential meters are read quarterly and estimated readings are based on historical consumption used for the other months.”

According to the municipality, the estimated readings are then analysed and “reversed” and accurate readings are billed when the meter is read.

“Our credit meters are read every three months and every month for businesses. In the months where the meters are not read they are estimated based on past history.

“When the meters are read, the estimated readings are reversed and actual meter readings are billed, including the VAT amount,” Mayisela said.

Another eThekwini resident, who asked not to be named, said he submitted his electronic meter readings every month but the reading on the bill was not only estimated but also stated it was “unread”, on a monthly basis.

“Sometimes I get an automated email to say that my mail has been received, so it seems like I’m wasting my time.

“I don’t know what they’re doing with the information we are giving. Right now I can’t tell if these amounts are correct because they’re estimating every month and as they estimate, the third month becomes a little bit higher. Especially now when we have load shedding, my bill should be lower, yet it’s going higher,” he said.

The high rates he had to pay for electricity because of the estimation made him opt for the alternative prepaid meter which he figured would be cheaper, but that brought its own frustrations after late mail from the municipality led to his compulsory three-month waiting cycle expiring.

“It took a long time for the mail to come so we had to reapply, and we queried the entire thing and said ‘it’s not fair’. A lady at the municipality then applied for us on the system but up until now I have not received any response from them.”

The municipality said residents who wish to be billed on their actual readings only, can visit the website, https://t.co/j1MMGt59Iq?amp=1, to select the relevant email address for the submission of their meter readings.

Independent On Saturday

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