Blantyre Water Board (BWB) has secretly increased the water tariffs again with an average of 15 percent despite being heavily criticised over the same thing some six months ago.
We have established that consumers have been paying the new tariff rate since January 2018. The readings which we have seen indicate that meter rental charge for December 2017 was K582.50 while that of 2018 indicates to be K1, 165.
Meter reading charge for December was 349.50 whilst that of January 2018 indicates K932. The same applies for comparative consumptions for October 2017 and January and February 2018.
Random interviews among consumers indicate that they are frustrated with the way the utility body treats them, indicating that BWB is doing this because it does not have competition.
One of the consumers, Annie Mtambo said she is shocked that BWB did not bother to inform its clients.
“The bills are always not tallying with the consumption this is why it’s been hard for me to notice any changes in the past months. Adjustment of tariffs without informing us (consumers) really affects us. If we are informed about the adjustment in advance, we plan accordingly,” she lamented.
The secret water tariff hike is against Section 6 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) which makes it mandatory for service providers to provide consumers with true, sufficient, clear and timely information on the services they offer.
In November 2017, The Daily Times exposed that the consumers unknowingly paid the adjusted tariffs for three months. After the revelation, government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development stopped the tariff hike.
Executive Director for Competitions and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC), Wezi Malonda said her organisation will verify the issue.
BWB Spokesperson, Priscilla Mateyu has confirmed the tariff adjustment, without giving tangible reasons for not informing consumers in advance, revealing that this adjustment is the one which was suspended last year.
“This time around, the board is in the process of notifying customers of another raise in tariff, which was approved and gazette by government. The new tariff is 15 percent and its effective February 2018 and not January as rumoured,” she said.
Mateyu claims that the first reversed tariff in 2017 was only raised in the month of September and that the board refunded all customers the 15 percent tariff increase, which was billed in that month.
BWB claims that the refund was factored in the January 2018 bill as a credit note to all accounts and was duly communicated to customers beforehand that they were going to get a refund and it clearly reflected on the customer’s bill as such.