One St Michael resident is today fuming after receiving several excessively high water bills for the past year, one as high as $22,000, but is to date still unable to get answers from the state-run Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
Sonia Edwards, who resides at a Jackson Terrace, Stage One, St Michael address, was quick to admit that she had two leaks on her property and an issue with a water heater, but told Barbados TODAY those issues were corrected by the beginning of this year.
She explained that while the BWA admitted that they made a mistake on her bill, they were yet to say if and when she would be compensated.
Edwards said she decided to share her story with Barbados TODAY because she was now in debt as a result of paying very high water bills, she has received a notice for disconnection and she was simply at her wits’ end.
She is particularly upset now that she has received a bill for over $600 for June despite having cleared her arrears and had no more leaks on her property.
“I had leaks before. I had problems with my water heater, my pipes were bursting and I got those fixed,” said Edwards.
“But I keep getting estimate bills for $200 or $300, so when I went to pay my bill the guy said to me ‘do you know these are estimate bills and since last year your meter was not read?’. I said, ‘okay I will call the water works and tell them I don’t want any more estimate bills, and I did that’,” said Edwards.
However, at the beginning of May, in an effort to clear her arrears, Edwards said she called the BWA and asked what she owed, and she was told she only owed $200, which she paid on May 6.
“I was so happy because finally I had no arrears,” she said.
“But on May 22 a water bill came in and when I opened it, it marked $22,000. So I said this has got to be wrong, because earlier in the year they had sent me one for $16,000,” she recalled.
“So I called and asked and the lady on the phone said ‘don’t worry about that. That is a mistake’. So I said to her ‘how much the bill is now?’ and she said $659. I said ‘what, why?” she said.
She said the lady explained to her that “in March, April and May we sent you the wrong amount on your bills”.
It was after asking the lady how much she owed for those three months and getting no answer that her curiosity peaked.
“I said ‘how you can’t tell me. I get bills every month and I paid my bills already and it is not my fault that you sent me the wrong bills? She said she can’t do anything,” recounted Edwards.
“Where is the discount for what I paid for March, April and May? Why is it not on the bills yet you have me for disconnection after you is who made the mistake?” she queried, adding that she wanted the BWA to start reading her meter instead of sending her an estimate each month.
She said after visiting the office and speaking with customer service as well as a senior member of staff she was told she “have to still pay the $659”.
“So the three months that I pay doesn’t count? That is not fair,” she said.
It was then that Edwards phoned the Fair Trading Commission, but she was told that the offices were closed, and they were unable to do any investigations without seeing the bills.
She said the person she spoke with told her to write a letter to the utility company explaining the issue and when the FTC reopened they would investigate. Edwards said she is yet to write the letter.
“I just want water works to know that it is unfair to people, especially in this time. It is not fair that you pay a bill and now you have to pay more. Flow and Barbados Light & Power don’t give trouble. The bills come in exactly what they say it is. And actually, since the pandemic those bills have dropped. Why water works raising the prices in these prices for poor people?” she said.
Edwards, an entrepreneur, said over the past year she has had to visit the doctor due to spikes in her blood pressure as a result of worrying about the high bills.
“This distressed me. I was very stressed. I was like, ‘more money again after getting my bills down? It stressed me,” she insisted.
“The minister get on TV and said in a pandemic, ‘pay your bills’ and that is what I did. I listened and I said you know what I making sure I clear my arrears, but now I am in debt because they are making mistakes at the Barbados Water Authority. No other company is making mistakes like this. Barbados Water Authority you need to get your act together,” said Edwards.
She said: “Work is slow. It is not the way it used to be and after I got my bills paid I was so happy, and to come back and tell me I owe $600 plus, now I am in debt again because of their mistake not mine. When you make a mistake you need to own up to your mistake and say to the customer ‘I am sorry’. That is what I want,” she said.
Edwards said she was not hopeful of getting any justice any time soon.
“No one is helping me. They still want me to pay the bills although they are wrong,” she added.
“I am due for disconnection when I did not have any arrears because I cleared my bill, but because they put on $659 on me, I have an arrears now, which is unfair,” Edwards said.
She explained that when the leaks started around a year ago her bill would increase to between $300 and $600 per month, with one spiking at $1,000.
The first unusually high bill she received was in August last year for $16, 012.78.
However, Edwards said she would pay between $250 and $350 at a time “to drive it down”.
Efforts to reach a representative from the BWA on Friday proved futile. [email protected]stoday.bb
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