Bill shock for senior

Andrew Rolf, 71, almost had apoplexy when he received his electricity bill for July.

Instead of the usual R2 000+ change, it was for a whopping R7 841.40. What exacerbated the issue was the bill indicated that the meter had been read on July 19.

“But,” said the Tokai widower who lives on his own, “it was not possible. No one came to my home to read the meter on that day. Access to my property and the meter is only through an electric gate which must be opened from inside the house. I was in all day on Friday (July 19) and gave nobody access, and nobody rang for entry,” Mr Rolf said.

In an email to the City of Cape Town, he attached his bills from April (actual reading) to July.

“Although May and June are estimates, the average billings are all around R2 000 to R2 500. There is no logic, or justification, for a billing of R7 841.40 for July, based on a meter reading that did not happen. I am a pensioner, live alone, and budget every penny of my meagre income. I cannot pay, or justify this outrageous billing,” Mr Rolf said, and attached an image of the meter taken on Thursday July 25 at 9am, a week after the declared reading and the dial shows 144.187.

“Your July billing declares the reading on July 19 to be 165.000 and is based on a lie. Please address, correct and rectify as soon as possible.”

But when Mr Rolf got no response from the municipality, he asked me to intervene. “I really hope you can help me here. I am in receipt of a bogus electricity bill, and other than the shock (nearly R8 000), I am frustrated by the lack of response from the City to my requests for clarity.”

Phindile Maxiti, mayoral committee member for energy and climate change, said a staff member of the City’s electricity generation and distribution department met with Mr Rolf and the account will be adjusted based on the actual meter reading. 

“Mr Rolf has indicated that he will provide his reading to the City on a monthly basis to avoid future electricity billing estimates.”

However, despite repeated requests, Mr Maxiti didn’t explain how the error occurred or how the meter reader got those figures without actually reading the meter or gaining access to the property.

Nicole Lategan in revenue management (electricity), said: “The City would like to advise that an incorrect reading was billed on the account. In the interim a City official has met with Mr Rolf to obtain the correct meter reading. The reading has since been corrected and Mr Rolf has been provided with the updated invoice. The electricity account has also been consolidated with the rates account, which will allow him to receive the billing for all services on one invoice. Mr Rolf is satisfied with the updated invoice and has expressed his gratitude in relation to the correction of the account and the efficiency of the official who visited his property. The City deems this matter finalised and would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

Mr Rolf said: “I received a mail with the correct July 2019 billing (R1 813), as opposed to the initial statement reflecting a due amount of nearly R8 000. It would be extremely inadequate to say I’m grateful to you for intervening, and bringing a vestige of sanity to this frustratingly perplexing situation.”