Water meter rule is unfair

PRESS RELEASE BY PREMILA KUMAR, CEO, CONSUMER COUNCIL OF FIJI

If you are thinking of allowing someone in good faith to have their water meter on your land, then you must think twice!

This is because current Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) policy is such that bill arrears and other outstanding charges owed by the meter owner are billed to the land/property owner where the meter is located.

Such case was brought to the Council?s attention where a property owner was held liable to clear someone else?s debt just because he allowed a landless person from an informal settlement to have the water meter installed in his yard. In one incident, complainant?s father during 1970s and 1980s helped a lot of people in his community by providing his piece of land for water meter installation since the roads infrastructure at that time was not developed and water meters could only be connected to those living by the roadside. Hence, the complainant?s father in good faith helped the vulnerable people living in the settlement to have access to clean drinking water.

In November last year, WAF billed the complainant who is the current owner of the premises, a total of $1915.59 for a disconnected water meter in 1999. To the complainant?s shock, he was told that he is responsible for all water meters belonging to other people situated in his compound although the meters were not under the complainants name.

WAF Promulgation 2007, Part 4 Section 34 ? (1) states that the owner of the premises is liable to pay any rates due to the Authority in respect of such services. In other words, as long as any water meter is situated on your property, you are liable to clear all bills if the meter owner fails to do so. Failure to clear the bill may result in your name being uploaded in Data Bureau. Why should the property owner be penalized when it is not his/her debt and no income was generated from the kind gesture?

Such policy will deny vulnerable consumers from informal and squatter settlement to clean drinking water. Does this policy mean that one has to own a land before he/she can access water?

It is only fair that the water meter owners be penalized for non- payment and not the property owner who only helps to facilitate the service.

If all property or land owners become cautious of this legislation, it will deny thousands of consumers from accessing a basic necessity that we cannot live without- which is water. It will become very difficult for those who do not own a piece of land or those who live away from main roads and ideal locations for a water meter connection.

Who will be responsible for providing a piece of land to facilitate this service to these consumers? If the meters are not placed in the secure place and the meters are vandalized again the meter owner will be penalized by WAF.

The Council therefore calls for a change in legislation that will not unfairly penalize property owners who derives no financial gain from allowing meters to be installed in his/her premises.

Meanwhile property owners must understand the consequences of allowing someone else?s water meter on your property.