MONTEGO BAY, St James — Growing weary of the monthly estimated bills she has been receiving from the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), Trelawny woman Karen Hamilton is begging for an intervention.
According to Hamilton, she has been watching in horror as her electricity bill increased from $17,000, which she believes was already an injustice, to over $43,000. She told the Jamaica Observer that she lives alone with only a television, fan, and refrigerator. This has been her biggest concern and though she has attempted to have the issue rectified, she has had no success.
"One month I unplugged my refrigerator to see if the bill would go down and it went up by $2,000. I called customer service and a report was made to send somebody to check the premises because they have a RAMI system.
"So everybody in the community is connected to this RAMI system and they don't come to the premises to do an actual reading. This is why I am not getting an actual reading from JPS," Hamilton stated.
She added, "Every month is an estimated bill, even though I told them that I only have one fridge, a television, and a fan."
The Trelawny woman stated that JPS had confirmed that there were issues with the meter on her premises and had attempted to rectify this to no avail.
"They said that they are having a problem with my meter and sent somebody to change it. That was in last year October…but I am still getting these high bills," she said.
Though her request to have JPS look into the drastic increase in her electricity bill did not materialise, she was happy to have received two monthly bills for $5,500. She stated that this eased her worries as she thought the electricity providers had finally got it. But she told the Sunday Observer that this was not so.
"I was thinking that things are looking up. The one that was due on September 23 was $5,500 and I paid that. On September 20, I got another bill that was due on October 8 for $30,000. When I reached out to them they said that what they gave [before] was an estimation and this is now the actual reading," Hamilton recounted.
She continued, "On October 10, I got another bill for $43,000. I think it was the balance from the $30,000 they brought forward to make $43,000, so in the space of a month I got three bills from JPS."
She told the Sunday Observer that she then reiterated her concerns regarding this drastic increase in charges and begged that technicians be sent to visit her home. This has yet to happen, the woman said.
"All I keep asking is for them to please come and check the premises to see what I am using. They said I should get an electrician to check the premises and I did that. The [electrician] did not see an issue," Hamilton noted.
Stating that she chooses to do "the right thing" by paying her electricity bills, Hamilton lamented that she has been dealing with this issue for far too long.
"There are people who are stealing electricity and I choose to do the right thing, yet I am getting all these high bills. It is so unfair. I live alone and I don't drink cold water, so I do not go inside my refrigerator [very often]. They say that somebody will be coming to check and it has been over a year since they have made that promise," Hamilton complained.
The woman grumbled that she feels disadvantaged each month after speaking with loved ones living in other communities.
"My sister [who] is living in Falmouth…has a computer, washing machine along with other appliances and her bill is roughly $8,000 per month. I spoke to a lady and she told me that her bill is $2,000. She lives alone also and uses more appliances than I do," Hamilton continued.
"Honestly, mi cry. I called customer service one day and I had to break down in tears. This is too much, because people are stealing electricity…and I do not want to go that route. I am a Christian and I do not believe that I should sleep and watch out for JPS or the police, so I choose to go the right way. But this is so unfair. Just send somebody to make some checks. That is all they have to do," she told the Sunday Observer.
Hamilton added, "I do not run a go-go shop and I don't have anything extra to say that I am using a lot of electricity. This does not make any sense."
She noted that she has also reached out to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) for assistance in expediting the issue.
"They said that they contacted JPS and were told that my previous bills are what they use to estimate me monthly. But I am not supposed to get more than two estimated bills each year. That is what I learned, so I don't know what is happening," said the obviously peeved woman.
Checks made by the Sunday Observer with the director of consumer and public affairs at the OUR, Elizabeth Bennett Marsh indicated that Hamilton had reached out for the agency's assistance "a couple of months ago". Bennett Marsh told this newspaper that though she could confirm that Hamilton's concerns were shared with the OUR, no additional information into the matter can be provided.
Winsome Callum, head of corporate communications at JPS, told the Sunday Observer that their "records show that Ms Hamilton has been estimated multiple times due to technical challenges with getting consistent readings from her meter.
"This is a very unfortunate situation, which the company is taking steps to address," Callum said.
"In some cases the customer's usages was underestimated, and as a consequence she was under-billed. The most recent bill is based on an actual reading. It includes usage for which she was not previously billed. We will be contacting the customer in an effort to bring a resolution to the matter," she added.