RICO’s TICO BULL – My story started last May, when instead of the usual ¢7,000 to ¢8,000 colones monthly water bill, it was an outrageous ¢34,000 colones and some change. I don’t remember the exact amount.
My first complaint got some relief, the bill was adjusted to ¢29,000 colones. A printout of my billing history for the previous 12 months, available at the AyA website free of charge, showed my consumption ranged from ¢5,400 to ¢9,800 monthly.
Not content with that, I appealed again.
This time, instead of getting my reduction, any reduction, the pay by date was changed to December 31, 2020. The amount stayed the same, just the due date changed.
I let it ride, the water utility has been battling with thousands of users, sooner or later my billing would be adjusted. I trusted.
All of the above had been done by phone. Due to the pandemic, my local AyA office was closed, as were many others. I was not about to make line, risk contagion, at the central offices in downtown San Jose.
By the end of December, when my billing date was coming due, I could not get any further on the phone, only told that it would have to be dealt with, in person, and at a “sucursual” (branch office).
The sign at the door said the office would reopen after the new year. Not worried, my billing date was December 31, service cut is usually after five days of due date. I still had time. The office was to reopen on January 2, I had to Friday, January 5, at least, before the crews cut my service.
On January 3, expecting the 2nd to be “lined to the walls’, I was surprised, one the office was open, but there were no crowds, no lines. I sat down for few minutes before I served.
“Oh yes, I see,” was the reaction after explaining my story. The nice lady assured me that the billing would be dealt with, but it was up to the central offices to make the determination, in the meantime, I was not required to pay it, but she reminded me to pay the current billing or I would be without water that Friday or shortly thereafter.
She could not tell me when the bill would be settled, but not to worry, it would be.
Come the beginning of this month, as do every month, I pay my water (and other utilities) online. But I could not pay the current bill, as I had done the month before, unless I paid first the expired bill, the ¢29,000 colones that had been due the prior December 31.
“Here it goes,” I thought, “I am getting screwed over”.
I tried to pay the current bill at the supermarket and bank branch, but to no avail. It could only be dealt with at the AyA offices.
Back at the Santa Ana office, once again no crowds, I got attended to in minutes. The gentleman behind the glass partition was well aware of what had to be done, “release” the billing period so that the May 2020 bill, due on December 31, 2020, did not have to be paid to pay the current bill.
Asked if this would have to be a monthly thing, I was almost about to give up and just pay the damn ¢29,000 colones, it no longer was worth my aggregation and time, but assured it would be not.
And it won’t be.
My determination and perseverance to fight this, that never about the money (well I suppose it was), but the point that this public institution could get away with such bold and blatant theft, would get away with it.
This Thursday (February 18) I got an email from the AyA. It was sent from “Estudios Technicos Zona 3”, which I almost missed, at first thought to be one of the hundreds of spam emails I get daily.
But the “NIS **** tag line” caught my attention before hitting delete and to my surprise, my bill, the 34 thousand something colones May bill that was reduced to 29 thousand something was now ¢7,694 colones.
The email read:
“Por este medio le informo que se realizó modificación a la factura de Mayo 2020 por desabastecimiento por le que pasa a un mondo de ¢7,694.00.
“Por lo que puede cancelarla en el agente reacudador de su preferenica”
A lot of lines of small print about confidentiality bs followed. Didn’t bother to read it.
In disbelief, I yelled out to my wife, “we did it”, to which she reminded me I did it, she had been content in me just paying it not to have to hear me anymore on the phone with the AyA and telling everyone I talked to about the billing.
On Friday, I checked the billing online, and yes, it was ¢7,694 colones. And still due on December 31, 2020.
The moral here, don’t give up, keep pressing until… In this case, had the billing not been adjusted properly, the next step would be the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Publicos (Aresep), followed up, if necessary, the Constitutional Court. And further still, a hand-delivered letter to the police officers on duty outside my neighbor’s house, President Carlos Alvarado.
For any billing query or request to adjust the current bill, you can contact the AyA by way of the 800 REPORTE phone line (800 737 6783), email to firstname.lastname@example.org, WhatsApp: 8376 5103, website www.aya.go.cr or visit the local AyA office to where the meter is located.
Thanks for listening.
Stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.