Muscat: Electricity and water bills invited a growing chorus of concerns calling for a thorough reevaluation of the billing system, particularly during the scorching summer months, driving bills to alarming heights. This outcry has found its platform on social media, with the trending hashtag #High_Electricity_Bills, drawing widespread attention to the unprecedented surge in electricity costs over recent months.
The social media campaign, characterised by active engagement from concerned citizens, highlights a shared perception of an abnormal bill increase during the sweltering summer season.
In an attempt to shed light on the issue, Namaa provided clarification on electricity bills. They suggested that updating personal consumption data could prevent excessive charges, stating, “You may be entitled to 10 baisa per kilowatt for subsidy, while you pay 14 and 22 baisa per kilowatt.” Sultan al Balushi, a resident deeply affected by the soaring electricity and water costs, expressed frustration, questioning the frequent need for data updates. He emphasised the importance of better communication from utility companies, suggesting that text messages could alert citizens to update their data, potentially mitigating the issue.
Al Balushi further noted the inconsistency in consumption patterns, with bills doubling during July, August and September while remaining lower for the rest of the year. He called for an urgent investigation into the reasons behind these staggering increases, proposing the establishment of a neutral advisory body to address the issue comprehensively.
Mohammad Ali, another affected citizen, called for a comprehensive review of the methodologies used by electricity companies to calculate bills. He argued that the bills were unjustifiable to surge by 50 per cent or more within a month, especially when many individuals struggle to meet these unexpected costs.Mohammad Ali expressed disappointment with the lack of resolution even after data updates, citing overuse as a reason despite no significant changes in usage patterns.
Rashid al Jabri echoed these sentiments regarding data updates, advocating for an end to frequent data updates. He pointed out that many households, particularly those who need access to technology, find these requirements burdensome. Al Jabri called for a simplified update process, requiring individuals to update their data only once.
Al Jabri also touched on water bills, highlighting instances where water was cut off due to late payments as low as 20 riyals. He suggested a more considerate approach, allowing individuals facing financial difficulties additional time to settle their bills without incurring additional charges.
Mohammad al Yaarubi, an electrical engineer, explained that the higher bills, despite similar usage times in winter and summer, are due to the difference in cooling hours rather than the air conditioner’s operating hours. According to Al Yaarubi, the air conditioner automatically turns off in the winter once it reaches the desired temperature and functions more like a fan. However, the air conditioner’s cooling cycle runs much longer in the summer. He emphasised that this should only result in a marginal increase, not the substantial hikes experienced by most families.
Khalid al Balushi shared his personal experience, detailing how his monthly electricity bill skyrocketed during the summer months despite consistent usage throughout the year. He noted the financial strain this places on families, impacting their ability to meet essential needs.
In light of these concerns, Khalid al Balushi called for a comprehensive review of strategies to manage high consumption and simplify billing processes. He stressed the need for assistance and payment plans to alleviate the financial burden on apartments and homeowners.