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City Power’s prepaid meter blunder

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10 May 2011

In yet another blunder Johannesburg’s power utility City Power has sent irate residents notices informing them that they have three days to convert to prepaid meters or risk having their electricity supply disconnected.

In an effort to force residents to pay for electricity and to avoid sending out estimates of electricity consumption levels, City Power launched an extensive campaign to force homeowners to convert to prepaid power meters.

City Power has demanded access to premises to replace existing meters with prepaid metering systems without notifying the homeowners or residents.

However, attorney Dino Tserkezis claims that this is “100% illegal” as there is no basis in terms of any by-laws that allows the utility to force property owners to convert to a prepaid metering system – especially if their accounts are paid and up-to-date.

Veronica Walker, the owner of a small shopping centre in Albertskroon, claims that the centre’s electricity supply was disconnected and she received a notice from the council stating that the reason for the disconnection was that she had not responded to a request for access to the premises to install a prepaid meter.

She says that the next thing that happened was that City Power arrived at the centre and installed four prepaid meters for nine different shops. She says that now she has no way of knowing how to bill the tenants of the nine shops as there are only four meters.

She has insisted that the council install the old metering system.

Walker says the same thing happened at her house in Linden where, without notification, the council arrived and installed a prepaid meter.

Resident Mike Lingwood of Bertrams installed a prepaid meter. Then City Power arrived, could not gain access to the premises so cut the supply to the prepaid meter by disconnecting the service at the electricity pole outside the property.

Meanwhile Democratic Alliance’s Joburg leader, Vasco da Gama suggest that residents take legal action against the council if it installs prepaid meters without prior notification and agreement.

City Power says the installation of prepaid meters is part of “an infrastructure upgrade” that will see more and more customers being converted to prepaid metering systems.

Council spokesman Louis Pieterse says that prepaid meters allow customers to manage electricity consumption and help customers avoid incorrect billing estimates.

However, he has urged residents to be wary of criminals taking advantage of the programme by claiming to represent the council and then robbing unsuspecting victims. 

Readers' Comments Have a comment about this article? Email us now.

I Stay in fountainbleu We have the same problem Because ,Electricity price are not the same ,IF you pay at checker  you get more unit than if you buy at pick N pay (it far more expensive  at pick n pay e.g. R200 you get 19 units) 2nd ;the meter unit uses battery, you have to buy Duracell AA battery for it to operate even though you still to plug it to wall socket. - Phillip

What’s funny about this is that City Power replaced the old meters with the so-called smart meters only about two years ago. Now they are forcing us to convert to pre-paid meters. At whose costs? - Abbey 

Just a comment here. We had a pre-paid meter in Cape Town and we loved it. We knew exactly how much electricity we were using at all times, and no shocks at the end of the month when the bill came, or arguments about incorrect readings.Unfortunately here we live in a sectional title unit. Apparently one cannot get City Power pre-paid meters in sectional title because the power is supplied by Eskom as bulk power to one meter for the whole complex. Although there are some private companies such as Angor who supply some kind of pre-paid meter for units, this has nothing to do with City Power/Eskom so (a) it seems that Angor charges quite a hefty markup on the power, which largely negates any benefits and (b) were Angor to go into liquidation all the money paid to Angor for power would be lost and the complex would still owe Eskom for the power. Also being sectional title one would have to get agreement from all owners etc. I find this whole sectional title thing extremely onerous (and confusing) and I wish there was some way that I could get my own pre-paid meter directly from City Power. - Sandra

Thank you for the reports – I feel a bit better knowing I am not alone. I was also forced to have a pre-paid meter installed at 07:45 on a Sunday morning and threatened that my electricity supply would be cut if I refused the technician access.  To add insult to injury I have now been billed for electricity consumption when I have been on pre-paid for over a month.  It was bad enough having to pay up front for a month when, at the same time I had to pay for the previous month’s consumption. For this to happen now is beyond irritating. - Sue

City Power FORCED the replacement of the standard electricity metering with Pre-paid meter. I had a couple of guys from Kent metering pitch up at my house in Ferndale on the 4th of May at around 10H00 and demand access to my property (my meter is on the side of my house). My maid quite correctly refused to allow them in  - they then cut the electricity off to my property even though I am not in arrears and never have been.  
When I arrived at the house, they advised that I have no alternative, but accept the Pre-paid meter or else they would leave me without power. They claim that notification of the change had been sent to me however I have seen nothing of the sort.
My major problem now though, is that I am still being charged for electricity on my rates account so am in fact paying double. After numerous attempts to contact City Power on the (011) 3755555 number (3 or 4 dropped calls and around an hour of holding) I was rudely advised that I must go to Reuven to cancel the metering.
In principal, I don’t have issue with the meter, however I do have a problem with the strong arm tactics which have been applied and the fact that it is now my responsibility to cancel the metering.
I have spoken to my neighbour who had the same experience, and like me he feels that it is an unreasonable situation.
I am strongly considering emigrating as I am fed up with the lack of rights that we have as citizens in this country. I own 3 businesses and employ over 60 people. - Adam King 

I had my pre-paid meter installed in April and I actually advised these dim wits at City Power that they had installed this meter and gave them the readings of the meters they had taken out…..after 70 emails and 15 calls I eventually gave up as I was receiving estimate accounts for electricity. When they came to cut my power off on the 24th November I eventually had to go into their offices…their incompetency is mind boggling. - Frances

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