(QCOSTARICA) During the first months of the pandemic (March and April), the 62 officials of the AyA (water utility) charged with reading water meters only did of large companies, that is, about 3,000 meters.
For the rest, some 370,000 meters in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), were not read and the utility billed customers based on their average consumption of the last 12 months, on the order issued by the AyA General Management: stop checking the meters during the months of pandemic.
This led to errors in billing for May, an error the utility admitted to after thousands of complaints were filed by users and questioned by the Regulatory Authority (Aresep), forcing the utility to adjust all billings and correct the errors.
For customers who paid the inflated May billing, the overpayment will be applied to future bills. Customers who are prepared to take the time and effort for a cash refund, one will be given.
The reading of meters was resumed on May 14, after strong criticism of the institution, including forcing people, in the middle of a pandemic, to make long lines for in-person complaints.
“The population was affected at the most vulnerable time, in the midst of a pandemic (…) I come from the private sector and in a company, everyone would be fired,” said legislator Zoila Volio, referring to the fact that those who made the “mistake” are still working in the AyA.
Volio, an independent legislator, questions whether the decision to suspend the reading of meters was the best, taking into account that the people who carry out this work do so alone and do not require interaction with other employees or customers.
“Don’t be so cheeky, because a meter is being read by one person, not a group of people. So do not tell me that they were sent home to protect themselves from COVID,” added the legislator, who calls for the immediate resignation of AyA president Yamileth Astorga and general manager Manuel Salas.
Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado announced that he would take action for this problem, however – almost a month after the events occurred – Alvarado refuses to say what he will do and when.
The AyA announced that all billing would be corrected starting on June 22. If you are one of those whose billing was not adjusted – at least not to where you believe is the right amount for your use – do not pay it, challenge it.
One, once a complaint is filed, in person or by phone, collection on that bill is suspended until such time a decision is made. If you did pay the May billing, watch closely for June and July billing to see if credit was applied. Find your billing, payments and credits online here.
During the pandemic, there is no suspension of water service. Your unpaid May bill will not affect water to your faucet, but, if it goes unchallenged, you will have to pay it at some time in the future to maintain the flow of water.
If you did challenge it, you cannot pay the June and subsequent bills online without paying the May. You need to pay the newer bills (without paying the May) at the supermarket, pharmacy, etc, for example.