Extortion by NWC?
The Editor, Sir:
After 11 fairly happy years as a customer of the National Water Commission, I suddenly find myself a victim of what I consider extortion. It started in December when I received an outrageous bill for the consumption of 133,000 litres over the previous four weeks. My usual consumption is around 11,000 litres over a four-week period, with very little variation over the 11 years.
To consume 133,000 litres I would have had to fill a few swimming pools. There is no pool in the area surrounding my modest two-bedroom cottage. A close scrutiny of the bill, and of the previous bills, revealed that a new meter had been installed in November (I still don't know why) and I presume that the ridiculous reading is due to an error associated with this installation.
Regardless of the cause, the standard practice of the NWC when there is a dispute over a bill is one of blatant extortion. They demand a payment of half the disputed bill before they will agree to investigate the matter. Then they send an 'inspector' who has orders simply to look for leaks. If he finds any, then the NWC will say it is the householder's fault and the bill must be paid in full. In my case, he found no leaks and so the 'investigation' ends there. And the bill must be paid in full.
I managed to talk with the inspector, who informed me that replacement meters are often installed with an initial non-zero reading, and that mine may have been recorded as zero by mistake. Back to an NWC office manager who now promised to investigate the history of the replacement meter and inform me of the outcome. (I gave her my telephone numbers).
This was in February. In March, without another word from NWC, my water was disconnected for the outstanding 50 per cent of the December bill. I had been careful to pay for the recorded 11,000 litres in January and February. Now I'm required to pay this $12,000, plus another $2,400 'reconnection fee' for the restoration of the water supply. This seems to be standard practice in the initial demand of half the bill.
I am quite certain that the disconnection was simply a result of NWC office staff incompetence. The left hand neglected to inform the right hand that the outstanding amount was the subject of an ongoing dispute. And the left hand also failed to keep in touch with the customer regarding the investigation.
Of course, I have tried telephoning the Marescaux Road offices (many, many times), and I have filled in their 'feedback' forms on the Internet and I have even emailed their head office, but no luck. So my only recourse is to send a letter to the press. Perhaps somebody in their office will see this and get in touch.
I am, etc.,