MONTEGO BAY, St James — For almost a year Richard Gallimore watched in agony as the electricity bill at his house in Retirement, St James increased to more than $2 million with no explanation from the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), resulting in him sitting in darkness several times due to service disconnections.
Gallimore, a clergyman and justice of the peace (JP) for the parish, told the Jamaica Observer that his electricity bill jumped from the usual $10,000 to more than $400,000 in August 2021. Appalled by the increase, Gallimore called an electrician to check his three-bedroom house.
The electrician, he said, "found no problems".
He said he then requested that JPS send a technician to investigate, but even after that was done there was no solution to the problem.
"When I asked the technician to check the box [meter] where I am connected to out by the road, he told me I needed to get an electrician to check it," Gallimore told the Observer.
He contested the bill, and the JPS, he said, told him that it would issue him with "an actual bill".
But the problem, he said, got worse.
"When December came they sent me a bill for almost $1 million, and they ended up cutting off the current," Gallimore said.
With his back against the wall and no explanation, that he considered reasonable, from JPS regarding the increasing bills, Gallimore asked the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to intervene.
"I e-mailed them and then they instructed JPS to reconnect the electricity and do an investigation. I was promised that within three days somebody would come to my premises and do an investigation. Nobody came. I was at my wits' end," he said.
His electricity supply, he said, was disconnected four more times as he sought to find a solution to the problem. One of those occasions was on June 17, 2022.
He said that after much deliberation the service was reconnected by JPS, only to again be disconnected two weeks later ,on June 30.
"My bill kept on going up and they cut off my light again. I called the customer care and I related to them what was promised to me when the OUR intervened. They put it back and still nobody came to investigate. I went to their office on numerous occasions, and each time I went there it would cost me a day because I would have to take a number and sit and wait. The last time I went there they promised me that the manager would call me," Gallimore told the Observer.
Efforts by the Observer to get a comment from JPS's head office were unsuccessful. At the same time, the director of consumer and public affairs at the OUR, Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, said its Consumer Affairs Unit has been assisting Gallimore.
"I can confirm that we received a complaint on a matter for Mr Gallimore and have been actively working with JPS to resolve it," Bennett Marsh said in an e-mail response.
Meantime, Gallimore said that earlier in September his electricity supply was again disconnected twice.
He said that after nearly a year of pleading for the service provider to carry out a thorough investigation into the matter, a team of technicians recently visited his home.
"I got a call to say that a team from JPS is at my house to do some investigation. I wasn't home but I gave them permission to go in my yard because they wanted to find out if I was using an air conditioner or heating system. If I was home I would have opened the house to let them walk through to see that I had nothing to consume more than usual," he said.
"I don't have an air conditioner, no heater. I have a fridge, washing machine and two fans…just the regular things you find in a house," Gallimore added.
The most recent bill he received for the period August 18 to September 18, 2022 amounted to $2,095,398.38. Payment is due by October 7, 2022.
The JP, who described his experience as "a gut punch", is hoping that his electricity bills will "go back to normal".
"I got a finding from them regarding the high bill. They said that the meter is faulty. Since last year I have been asking that they send a technician there to check the meter box. The one they sent refused and told me to get an electrician to do it. Finally they have done their investigations and the conclusion is that the meter is faulty, so they changed the meter," he said.