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Friday Nov 23, 2012

Joburg city's billing complaints doubled

Customer queries to the City of Joburg have doubled despite ongoing promises to sort out problems.

A report which the city handed to a parliamentary committee shows a huge jump in queries in June, July and August.

The report also shows that the city got more queries during the height of the billing crisis than it admitted.

The report went to the National Council of Provinces' select committee on appropriations on Gauteng municipalities on October 16.

For August, the report recorded a peak of 38 485 nontechnical queries logged (that excludes the technical queries like power cuts or water leaks, but includes billing problems).

This is the highest number of queries received in a single month over the past year. Between October last year and May, the highest monthly total was 19 504 queries.

The billing crisis was at its worst at the end of last year, when the city was inundated with queries it couldn't sort out.

The report shows that in June, July and August there was a total of more than 100 000 new non-technical queries. This is a huge increase.

Counting both technical and non-technical queries, the city got the same number of queries during those three months as it received over the

Cfive worst months of the billing crisis from November last year to March.

This week, City of Joburg spokesman Kgamanyane Stan Maphologela told The Star that, as at the end of October, there were still about 20 000 queries outstanding.

About 7 000 of these queries were more than 30 days old, he said. The city's target is to sort out queries within 30 days.

Maphologela said the big increase was due to the electricity billing queries.

He said the winter tariff - higher than the summer tariff - applied, consumers used more electricity in winter and the annual tariff increase was implemented from July 1.

The city's report said the increase was due to electricity billing, and also because there were queries about the valuation roll, and meter readings had also become actual readings rather than estimates.

The Star compared the numbers from the October report to the parliamentary committee to the city's April report-back on sorting out the query crisis, and found more queries listed in the October report.

The October report lists 74 900 new non-technical queries and 86 578 new technical queries logged from November 2011 to March 2012, a total of 161 478 queries.

The April report lists 71 180 new non-technical queries and 77 569 new technical queries, a total of 148 749 for the same period.

That means the city told the select committee it got 12 729 more queries (about 9 percent more) than it had told its own customers about.

The differences in the numbers in the two report are "not misinformation but timing differences", said Maphologela.

The Star

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