You are back from holidays, look at your electricity and water bill and you will get the shock of your life.
Even while your house was closed for weeks, you have been slapped a steep bill.
That is a complaint that is no more being treated in isolation with Emirates Society for Consumer Protection now taking up the matter on a priority basis at the federal level.
According to a report in Emarat Al Youm, the consumer body has confirmed the problem with water and electricity bills across all emirates and is now in talks with the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa) to install smart meters.
These metres are tamper-proof and take the readings automatically through fiber optic cables.
The consumer body said it was acting after it had received a deluge of complaints from consumers in different emirates during the past three months related to electricity and water bills.
In a statement issued on the matter, Fewa has confirmed there is no mistake in its water and power meter readings.
Rayah Khamis Al Mahrazi, board member, of the Emirates Society for Consumer Protection (ESCP), says that most of the complaints came from Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.
She added: “Consumers received bills for thousands of dirhams although some of them were out of the country during the summer holidays.”
She added that the ESCP contacted local bodies of electricity and water several times in order to find a solution, but unfortunately did not find any cooperation or gesture to resolve these issues from these bodies.
Al Mahrazi claimed that ESCP’s own investigation discovered that some meter readers don’t read the meter and put fictional arbitrary estimates.
She adds, “There some old electricity meters which give improper readings.
“The consumer does not bear the responsibility for the inaccuracy of old meters.”
She also confirmed several complaints about high water charges in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.
Al Mahrazi says that the number of people who are affected by such high bills are more than the total number of complaints received, because consumers don’t like to complain or there is a lack of sufficient awareness about the complaint process.
Citing one of the complaints received Al Mahrazi said; “One lady went to a local office for clearance and payment of arrears.
“She said the clerk told her that they would not make the clearance unless they examine the meter and if they find evidence that the meter has been tampered or is not working properly, she would be asked to pay a flat consumption rate.”
Al Mahrazi noted that the ESCP launched an initiative which is the first of its kind at the UAE-level, to make smart meters mandatory.
Mohamed Saleh, Director General of FEWA, said that the body has a clear mechanism for issuing the bills.
He stressed that this mechanism starts from the date of the actual reading, until submitting the bill to the consumer and that it passes through many stages to avoid potential errors.
He explained that the body that handle consumers' complaints reports that the rate of complaints is within the normal levels of any department .
He added that in the event of malfunction of the meters there is a maintenance team in place that maintains and replaces the faulty ones.
He explained that the distribution of meter reading is based on the geographical region and type of activity.
He stated that a number of meter readers cover the existing accounts so that they can finish taking notes during the first 20 days of each month.
He added that the average number of accounts read by every reader ranges between 70 and 80 meters a day and that this number does not represent a strain on any reader.
He added this number is not a burden to force the reader to register estimated readings according to the report issued by the Emirates Society for Consumer Protection.