Drowning in Doubt: eThekwini’s Water Billing Woes

In the coastal city of Durban, South Africa, residents are encountering a wave of challenges when it comes to receiving accurate water bills from the eThekwini Municipality. As a private meter reading agency, we have delved into the depths of these issues to shed light on the frustrations faced by consumers and property managers alike.  

Inaccurate Estimated Readings:

One of the primary issues plaguing consumers is the eThekwini Municipality’s reliance on estimated readings for water billing. These estimations lead to discrepancies between billed amounts and actual usage. Not only are consumers left perplexed by the bills that do not reflect their true consumption, but property managers too cannot reconcile the revenue collected from consumers monthly with that being billed from the municipality. Resulting in financial strain and frustration.

Missing Tariff Information:

Adding to the confusion, consumers sometimes receive bills devoid of any information regarding the applicable tariff or rate. Without this crucial detail, understanding the basis of the charges becomes a guessing game, leaving consumers in the dark about how their bills are calculated.  

Thumb-sucked Estimated Amounts:

Even more concerning is the practice of basing billing on arbitrarily concocted estimated amounts, rather than actual readings or informed estimations based on historical usage patterns. This haphazard approach can result in bills that wildly fluctuate, leaving consumers scratching their heads at the inexplicable charges.

Failure to Revise Previous Estimates:

When the municipality does obtain an actual reading, they often opt to simply credit previous amounts rather than revising inaccuracies of past estimated bills. This band-aid approach fails to address the root cause of billing discrepancies, perpetuating the cycle of confusion for consumers and property managers.

Inflated Billing Periods:

Another grievance arises from inflated reading periods, with some bills as we have seen being based on a period of 188 for example, which artificially inflate bills due to the nature of the incline block tariff structure. The council should be consistently reading meters around every 30 days to ensure fairness and transparency when it comes to billing.

Water Outages and Meter Reading Discrepancies:

Beyond billing inaccuracies, consumers also contend with water outages and suspicions of incorrect meter readings. Faced with the inconvenience of service disruptions, some consumers have started to conduct their own meter readings to verify the municipality’s data with some discovering that they are in fact being over charged due to incorrect meter readings.

Infrastructure Surcharge:

Adding insult to injury, consumers have been blindsided by the introduction of an infrastructure surcharge, retroactively applied to their accounts without prior notification. While intended to fund water and sanitation projects, for which over R200 million has been collected, this additional charge only exacerbates the financial burden on consumers already grappling to keep their heads above water even where there is none to consume.

These issues only highlight the myriad of inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and unexpected charges that consumers and property managers must contend with. Clearly indicating an urgent need for transparency, accountability and reform when it comes to the municipality’s billing and meter reading practices.

Should you need assistance in understanding your water bills, reach out to us on help@oxers.co.za where we will be more than happy to help.