Business News Fri, 27 Oct 2017

Programmed to ‘cheat’: Error-ridden ECG prepaid meters ripping-off consumers

A supposed technical error in the prepaid billing system of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is shortchanging power consumers in the country on their blind side.

A receipt brought to the B&FT by an affected consumer showed that even though he had made a purchase of GH?500, his current balance was GH?221.3033 because he had GH?-278 outstanding on his prepaid account, which he was not aware of.

Follow-up investigations by the paper at the vending point revealed that the case in question was one of several reports/feedbacks from consumers.

“It’s an error in the system; sometimes the meter will be disconnected at source but there will still be light at your place. It does not reflect on time,” the vendor at the vending point in question said.

On whether they have made any official complaint to the ECG he said: “We have told them about it several times. So, to be on the safer side, the consumer has to come to us—the vending point—to check his/her balance.”

Further investigations at the ECG Legon district office confirmed that similar complaints had been lodged there.

According to the district office, customers who fall under a certain tariff category are given access to electricity even if they run out of credit, and when they later buy credit it is deducted. However, the system is flawed as it fails to notify consumers before allowing their meters to run on credit they have not bought.

Apart from allowing prepaid electricity consumers to use power without credit, the system is also fraught with challenges regarding time and date. For instance, it can take days to reconcile the date and time of a purchase and consumption.

Additionally, it also automatically disconnects consumers without any notice after running on the ‘borrowed’credit.

One of the affected customers who spoke to the B&FT said after buying the credit, he still did not have access to electricity; and when he followed up at the nearest office, he was told his prepaid metre had been disconnected because it ran into negatives.

When contacted on the phone, the Legon district also confirmed all the complaints raised by consumers – but added when it happens like that a technician is sent to the ground to get the consumer reconnected.

With regard to the date and time of purchase of credit, the office said it takes time to reconcile the differences – adding that it was as a result of challenges with the billing system.

Source: thebftonline.com