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$168K light-bill shocker

Published:Friday | March 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Carl Gilchrist,
Gleaner Writer

A residential customer of the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) is squealing after having received an electricity bill for a whopping $168,251.95.

Selvin Bradley of Eltham, near Ocho Rios in St Ann, could not believe his eyes when he received the bill recently.

According to Bradley's daughter, Maria, her father lives in a two-bedroom house with only standard electrical appliances such as a refrigerator, fan, radio and a television set.

"The bill is usually anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000, so we don't understand how all of a sudden it gone sky high," she explained.

But on Tuesday, the JPS defended its billing system, saying Bradley's charge was indeed correct.

Initially, a spokesperson for the company said Bradley was being billed for electricity that was not registered on the meter, or "under-registration".

Subsequently, Corporate Communications Officer Audrey Williams told
The Gleaner
that checks by company technicians revealed faulty wiring at the premises, which led to the high meter readings.

Estimated bill

High readings began in October when the bill for that month amounted to more than $39,000. The family took the matter to the company and, in the interim, an estimated bill of $4,000 was sent and was paid.

The JPS said this procedure - sending an estimated bill when there is a significant change in usage - was normal.

"As (a) precautionary measure, (JPS) sent the customer an estimated bill, based on an average of the last three previous readings. This precautionary measure is carried out whenever the reading drops or increases by 30 per cent or more of the normal consumption pattern," Williams pointed out in an emailed response to
Gleaner
queries.

She added: "The following month, however, the reading was consistent with the new level, and the customer was sent the bill showing a consumption of 2,099 kWh." That (December) bill was for $65,253.33.

Williams confirmed that the Bradleys' bill generally ranged between $3,000 and $6,000, reflecting consumption between 100 and 200 watts.

Functioning properly

Ms Bradley said the light and power company sent an electrician to check the meter on January 4 this year. Following this, the company concluded that the meter was functioning properly.

But when the January bill came, it read $65,303.37.

According to the bill, a copy of which was made available to
The Gleaner
, the total amount due was $168,251.95, representing the previous and current balances, in addition to an adjustment of $37,695.25. The due date was February 15, 2010.

Electricity to the premises was disconnected.

"We don't know what to do because we can't afford to pay that amount of money," Ms Bradley lamented.

On Tuesday, Williams told
The Gleaner
initial checks by the JPS revealed the meter was functioning normally.

By Wednesday, she explained, the JPS had carried out further checks on the premises and concluded that the wiring of the premises was faulty. She said JPS technicians discovered that because of the faulty wiring, there were spikes in the meter readings, even while all appliances in the house were unplugged.