African Utility Week: Incomprehensible utility bills – could be empowerment tools
A research company, Sarah Slabbert Associates, recently did a study for the Water Research Commission of South Africa into how this country’s utility bills compare with that of the rest of the world and to structure guidelines for the standardisation of accounts.
“The South African public is paying huge amounts of money for utilities without always understanding how the amounts have been calculated,” says director Sarah Slabbert, confirming what many a homeowner has experienced. “The utility bills of South African municipalities are, for the most part, incomprehensible with wide fluctuations in the reported use which can seldom be explained satisfactorily when queried.”
“The majority of accounts do not identify numbers as Rand, a meter reading, consumption or an unknown code for office use only. The result is that the onus is on the consumer to try and figure out what all the numbers on the bill mean. This does not serve customers and render many accounts incomprehensible,” Slabbert says.
“The use of non-standard abbreviations and unexplained acronyms and symbols, which are common to South African municipal accounts, exacerbates the confusion for customers.
“Meters are not read every month, and estimates are then made. One municipality admitted that some meters have not been read for over a year. Inaccurate meters and inaccurate meter readings are common problems affecting the integrity of data. Some municipalities give consumers the opportunity to phone or send in their meter readings. Consumers do not receive any incentive for this service. Municipal officials of smaller municipalities admitted that this information is captured by hand and could lead to data errors.”
Slabbert points out that the municipal bill offers a unique opportunity for municipalities to inform, educate and influence their customers and to establish their communication as clear, accurate and customer friendly.
“We developed a tool to analyse municipal bills based on local and international regulations, local and international best practice and plain language guidelines. The tool translates qualitative criteria into measurable categories to calculate an index score which can be used to assess and compare municipal bills.”
Slabbert continues: “the five categories measure the language used as well as the lay-out of the utility bill; the legal requirements relating to value added tax and credit; the integrity of the account and information to help the consumer manage resources. We also looked at international best practises. Unfortunately our utility bills do not compare well at all with the best international examples.”
She says Australia has had huge successes with utility bills that show the average consumption of the area in which the consumer lives. “Once a consumer knows how their usage compares with that of their neighbours, they adapt their own consumption patterns to fit in with the average. South Africa’s Tshwane Metro gives such a comparison. Such information helps consumers to manage scarce resources such as water and energy, effectively. If a sudden extraordinary peak is indicated on the graph, it could be an indication of a leakage or other problem and it can be addressed immediately. In some of the countries we looked at, including Singapore, North America and Australia, a red flag is added to the account when consumption is higher than average.”
Slabbert emphasises that the consumer has the right to be properly informed by the utility authority.
“Without sufficient information, the client is disempowered which leads to resentment and an unwillingness to pay. The authorities should make it as easy as possible for the client. Poor clients should have an option to pay via cell phones. People in poorer areas experience many extra expenses when they pay their accounts in person. They have to make use of public transport and stand in long queues – sometimes for hours – which all carry a monetary value. Rwanda is a good example of a country where payments via cellphone have been implemented and work well.”
African Utility Week
Slabbert will be a speaker in the water track at African Utility Week, to be held at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg from 21-24 May. This annual conference and exhibition which draws international speakers and exhibitors is the most important exhibition of its kind held on the African continent.
Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl: Conference Director: Water, says Slabbert’s presentation takes place during the session Water as a commodity – managing public perceptions. The focus is on increasing service delivery, revenue collection and overall management of water suppliers with the water users as an integral part of the water chain. Says Pombo-van Zyl: “municipal accounts – the billing system – are wonderful management resource tools which, if used efficiently, can be very effective in reducing water consumption and increasing revenue. It can enable the utility to invest in infrastructure to consistently supply potable water where and when it is needed.”
African Utility Week will focus on all aspects of the utility service sector on the continent with 10 000 sqm of exhibition space and dedicated tracks on: Metering, Renewables, Water, Large Industry, Infrastructure Investment, Transmission & Distribution/Smart Grids, Generation and Waste Management.
Conference: 22-23 May 2012
Exhibition: 21-23 May 2012
Pre-conference workshops: 21 May 2012
Site visits: 24 May 2012
Event location: Nasrec Expo Centre, Johannesburg
African Utility Week is part of Clarion Events, the UK's largest independent events company with annual turnover of over £150m, drawing upon over 80 years of experience of hosting strategic conferences conferences and seated events across Britain, Europe, North and South America, Africa, Middle East and Asia. Our events, business-to-business and business-to-consumer, serve 15 different market sectors from leisure and entertainment to finance, from retail to gaming and from fine art to energy.
Communications manager: Annemarie Roodbol
Tel. +27 21 700 3558
Fax. +27 21 700 3501
Mobile: +27 82 562 7844
Postal address: PO Box 321, Steenberg, 7947
This release was published on openPR.
Permanent link to this press release:
Please set a link in the press area of your homepage to this press release on openPR. openPR disclaims liability for any content contained in this release.
You can edit or delete your press release African Utility Week: Incomprehensible utility bills – could be empowerment tools here
News-ID: 216274 • Views: 1968
More Releases from African Utility Week
Will the African utility of the future be a lion, hyena, a white elephant or a h …
A brand new study into the future of African power utilities and the challenges they face has highlighted four possible scenarios of what the continent’s energy sector will look like by the year 2030. In the whitepaper, titled: “The Future of Energy and Power Utilities in Africa”, utilities are envisioned to either become “The Lions of Africa”, “Hungry Hyenas”, “An Elephant Herd” or “White Elephants”, with each scenario having
Indian energy companies ready to do business at African Utility Week
“Indian utility vendors and services will find a huge market and scope in Africa, especially in South Africa’s energy sector, says Dr. Rajeev Singh, the Director General and CEO of the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The ICC represents India at the upcoming African Utility Week from 15-17 May in Cape Town, hosting a pavilion of more than 45 suppliers of specialised technology and services for the energy sector. Dr Singh
Finalists announced for African Utility Week Industry Awards show continent-wide …
The fifth annual African Utility Week Industry Awards received nominations from far and wide for the 12 different categories celebrating excellence in the energy and water industries. The finalists have been announced for the awards which honour pioneering utilities, projects and people in the energy and water industry on the continent during 2017/2018. The awards gala dinner takes place on 16 May and forms part of the African Utility Week
African Utility Week announces diamond sponsorship by longstanding partner Lucy …
African Utility Week has announced that Lucy Electric, a longstanding partner of the event, will be the exclusive diamond sponsor at this year’s exhibition and conference in Cape Town from 15-17 May. Lucy Electric is a highly respected industry leader in secondary distribution solutions with more than 100 years’ experience in the electrical industry. “African Utility Week is a key conference which evolved over the years from an electrical measurement, generation,
More Releases for Africa
Frenchie Africa Introduction
Johannessburg, Gauteng, South Africa, 17 February 2021 – Frenchie Africa has announced the initiation of their website and Social Media channels to the public. Frenchie Africa will follow the journey of two French Bulldogs, Bakari and Jamani as they grow up in Africa. From their homebase, a small but cozy, custom-built log cabin in South Africa, Frenchie Africa will chronicle the lives of Bakari and Jamani and their owners Ross and
Baby Food in South Africa
Summary Although many consumers have been hard pressed over the last two years or so, as levels of consumer debt have mounted, the market for baby food has so far been fairly resilient, as purchases are predominantly still made by the upper income groups, who have suffered less than others from the difficult economic situation. Research published by Analytics Business Intelligence indicates that in 2011 some 41% of users of baby
14th Africa Independents Forum
The 14th Africa Independents Forum 2016, 25-26th May, gathers together leading independents and corporate players worldwide and from across Africa, both listed and unlisted, large and small, established and new entrants, and provides enhanced exposure to the wider Africa-wide upstream industry in oil, and gas, exploration and development, including issues in crude oil and financial markets, engaging equity financiers, banks, private equity and investors found on the AIM and LSE,
Vizocom Selects iSAT Africa as Its Africa C-band Partner
Vizocom, a leading global provider of satellite services, announced today that it has signed a partnership agreement with iSAT Africa to cooperate in providing satellite services and solutions. Sharjah, UAE, March 02, 2016 -- Vizocom, a leading global provider of satellite services, announced today that it has signed a partnership agreement with iSAT Africa to cooperate in providing satellite services and solutions such as data solutions including C-band VSAT services and
23rd Africa Oil Week
While the African Continent continues to attract a steady stream of oil and gas commitments in its fast-growing oil, gas-LNG and energy industry, our landmark Africa Oil Week 2016 event will again showcase Africa’s Governments, National Oil Companies, Licensing Agencies and corporate players shaping the continent’s future – in exploration and production/development, across new frontiers and established basins; onshore in the Rifts and offshore in the shelf and deep-water, providing
Vizocom Selects iSAT Africa as its Africa C-band Partner
Vizocom, a leading global provider of satellite services, announced today that it has signed a partnership agreement with iSAT Africa to cooperate in providing satellite services and solutions. Sharjah, UAE, February 29, 2016 -- Vizocom, a leading global provider of satellite services, announced today that it has signed a partnership agreement with iSAT Africa to cooperate in providing satellite services and solutions such as data solutions including C-band VSAT services and