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Dispute with Balibago Waterworks over my water bill

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Dispute with Balibago Waterworks over my water bill

Postby Winston » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:38 am

Hi all,
Earlier today, I had a dispute with the water company here in Angeles City called Balibago Waterworks.

For the last 6 months, my water bill had more than doubled. Usually it's around 220p, but now it's between 500p and 700p. I thought that it must be due to Dianne's family (who were uninvited) using the water and doing laundry a lot, but it was hard to believe that they could use up that much water as to more than double it. Furthermore, my neighbor said his water bill was 1500p which he thought was way too much too.

But utility companies do not usually scam people, or do they?

So I reported this to Balibago Waterworks, which managed my bill and water meter. They said they could do a test of my meter, and if it was defective, they would fix or replace it for free. But if it was not, then I'd have to pay a 140p service charge. The test involved me following their inspector, as he removed the water meter, to the water company so that I could witness the testing. I agreed to it and they filled out the order.

The next day he came, removed the meter, and I followed him to the water company. There he hooked up the water meter to another meter that dispensed water pressure, to test its calibration. The test showed that my meter was only operating at 81 percent, which meant I was being UNDERCHARGED, not over! Great...

To make things worse, they wanted me to pay the 140p service charge still. I went to the customer service lady who told me yesterday that there would be no service charge if the meter was defective. She then renegged on her promise, saying that there would only be no service charge if the meter was overcharging me, not if it was undercharging me. But she didn't say that yesterday. And also, it makes no sense to charge me when the defect favors them and not me, since it would mean that fixing it would RAISE my water bill, not lower it.

I mean, why should I go through all this trouble to fix my meter just to end up with a higher water bill and an additional service charge of 140p as well? I didn't come here to shoot myself in the foot. Sheesh. It was like they were adding insult to injury and breaking their promise at the same time.

Anyone with any sense knows that it is the water company's responsibility to fix the meter. It's their meter, not mine. What is the logic of charging me a 140p service charge? Even though it's only 140p, it's an insult and makes no sense.

I lectured the lady about this, treating her like a child and asking her to give me a logical basis for going back on her promise and charging me without a basis. I don't like conflict, but this was insulting and I wasn't going to budge without a fight. And even if I lost, I would expose their company on the internet for this. Either way, they would lose.

But she would not give me any basis for this except to say that it was her company's policy. I indirectly called her a liar and lectured her about logic, common sense, right and wrong, etc. repeating those key words to her strongly, as though they were points that counted (at least in my mind, but maybe not hers). But she could not win or provide a good reason for breaking her promise and charging me with 140p for doing their job that ended up going against me.

Finally, she gave up and told me to speak with their manager. She went into the back office and out came a tall clean cut looking guy who came and shook my hand. I explained the problem to him and he said that I ought to pay the 140p service charge. When I calmly explained how and why it was 100 percent wrong to tack that service charge on me, especially when the lady said that there wouldn't be if the meter was defective and how I did them a favor by reporting a broken meter to them, he too was unable to provide any valid reason for making me pay the charge, except the usual "Our policy is that if the meter is running too slow, then you have to pay a service charge". But, I argued, she didn't say that yesterday and cannot just change the rules anytime she wants. That's just plain wrong and deceitful.

Then I gave him the same lecture, emphasizing logic, common sense, basic right and wrong, and the lady breaking her promises, etc. He seemed a bit overwhelmed since repeatedly using the word "logic" in the Philippines in persuasion or debate was uncommon. In using it, I was in effect demanding that he use logic in return, which he wasn't used to, and play my game by my standards. Filipino companies are all about policy, not about logic or right and wrong. But I made sure that logic and basic ethics counted here by strongly emphasizing them as key words, drawing him into my arena. He seemed a bit confused.

Then I gave him a hint of the consequences of what I could do, when I told him that I was a writer with some popular websites and that "everything that happens to me gets published online you know..." At that he told me "Alright, forget the charges then." and let me win.

Next, we discussed the meter. He told me that I observed the test performed in the toolshop in the back and that it was conclusive. However, I told him that such tests can easily be rigged and that "magicians can make you see anything you want" for example. That annoyed him somewhat and he stated that his company was honest and had been in business for 50 years.

I then gave him another logic lesson and explained that saying "I am honest" is NOT evidence of being honest. One needs a track record from multiple sources to prove one's ethics and honesty. Simply claiming so is not evidence, since everyone in the whole world, including the worst criminals and scammers, will claim to be "honest" if you ask them. But I made it clear that I was not accusing them, I was merely saying that I cannot be 100 percent sure that the test was not rigged, which is true technically. Especially since my sixth sense and intuition told me something fishy was going on, and that I did not get honest vibes from the face of that customer service lady who broke her promise. She had a look of denial on her face, not honesty.

So I was just trying to be logical and realistic. But he took offense to it. Plus, it made no sense that my meter would be running too slowly if my water bill had more than doubled the past 6 months. It just seemed too bizarro to accept.

When I used the word "magic" jokingly, he had it and got up and walked away, saying "You can believe what you want, but we do not use any magic here!"

So, they ended up replacing my water meter with a new one they said. And if my meter was really running too slowly, then I will now have an even higher bill. So that means that my efforts to reduce my water bill actually increased it. And yet, I have no idea if the meter test was even honestly done or not. I simply can't know, and I got weird vibes from them too. I only hope that they didn't install a rigged water meter that would run at higher than normal rates...

What do you all think? Am I being scammed? If so, how? Any of you have similar experiences with water companies in the Philippines?
Last edited by Winston on Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:05 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Rock » Sat Mar 05, 2011 2:44 pm

A few points:

1. Just for reference, my water bill here in Taipei (for girlfriend and me) varies between NT$300-450 per month, equivalent of 441-662 Pesos per month.

2. According to me experience, water in Thailand is more expensive than Taiwan, at least in high rise condos. I believe juristic office/condo management association makes some money by charging above market rates for water and pocketing the difference.

3. I know for awhile in Taiwan, they would charge a premium rate for utilities once you went over a certain amount of usage. Basically, they were trying to encourage households to conserve in light of rapidly rising oil prices, etc.

4. Did you check to see whether or not there were any rate increases recently?

5. I presume water company in Angeles is a monopoly. That means you have no choice, take it or leave it basically. I doubt you will get anywhere trying to fight them. Are you going to start a mass protest claiming they are cheating the public? If you pull such a stunt, watch your back bro.
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Postby momopi » Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:11 pm

Did you keep the old utility bills for your records? Pull out one that was 220p and check the metered usage and rates, compare to latest bill.
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Postby Winston » Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:54 pm

Yes the rates are about the same. 0 to 10 cubits are 219p. After that, each additional cubit is 22p each. So 20 cubits is around 440p. The lady explained it to me on paper. The rate has increased over the last few years, but only slightly.

I just didn't get a good vibe from that girl. Her face looked like she was hiding something. And the test results looked suspicious.

I'm not going to start a campaign against them, unless they rig my meter and leave me no choice. This thread already puts their name into Google search engines anyway.

I don't think they want to put up with the trouble of a cyber war. These are bureaucrats who only know how to follow policy, they aren't thugs or fighters or thinkers of any sort. Thus they are intimidated by words like "logic", for it is out of their realm. lol
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Postby keius » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:53 am

Those meters are very often damaged or are not performing at 100% efficiency. They might have been telling the truth. Even the best meters have problems dealing with sediment and crappy water sources. The meters tend to filter and build up "impurities" over time which can actually clog them up resulting in much less than optimal levels. If you remove and clean the filters from the nozzles of your sinks/bathrooms, you will find impurities that have probably collected over time. I clean them every couple months.

Example: Couple years ago, i received a letter from the water deptmt stating that my meter was damaged and that i was underpaying. They came, and took it apart while i was watching them. Big mess. Huge sediment clog. Even though water was coming into my place, i was apparently paying only for 10% of the water i used for over a year.
After the replacement, my bill skyrocketed.
Presently, i think there's a clogup building again. My water bill has been slowly decreasing again. I'm not complaining and i'm not going to report it :P
Anyway, your lucky your water bill is so negligible. My water and sewage bill is split up into 3 separate bills. 1 is $400 a year. 2nd is also $400 a year. The third involves taxes, regulations, bay cleanup fees, and actual water usage .... this is the one that can vary in cost. It all adds up to about US$950 a year if i use no water at all. With water usage, it's usually about $1200 a year.
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Postby Winston » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:04 pm

Check this out. If you Google "Balibago Waterworks", this thread comes up as the second hit.

http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy&hl=e ... 30f19a4453

This means anyone searching for info on them will find this thread. hahaha
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Postby Think Different » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:38 pm

Have you checked to make sure there's no water leak somewhere, like from a pipe, sink or in the toilet? I had a slow downflow leak from the toilet that just dripped once about every second and it added up to 100s of wasted gallons/month. I don't know how the toilets there function, but I thought I'd suggest it.
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Holy shit! My water bill has more than doubled!

Postby Winston » Thu May 05, 2011 7:10 pm

Holy f***ing Shit!

I got my water bill for March and it came out to 1699p this month! So I go in last month to complain about the 700p per month water bill, since my usual bill is only 220p, only to have it raised to 1699p now? What the f**k?

Could they have installed a rigged ultra fast meter? How would I know? And what can I do about it? Should I just refuse to pay and get my water bill shut down? I feel like a sitting duck. They know I need water, so they can just charge me anything they want?

What recourse do I have except to have them inspect the meter again and trust whatever they say? Sheesh.

If they are scamming me, then they can just deny it. So what can I do? Continue to slam them with webpages like this? They probably don't care since they don't have to sell anything or depend on public image.

RedDog, yeah one of my toilets was leaking in that it was dripping a few drops from the tank into the toilet bowl every second, but can that make that much of a difference? After badgering the owner, he finally sent someone to close the toilet valve. Now I have to pour buckets of water into it to flush it. They said they will replace the defect parts in the toilet tank, but keep delaying.

Should I pay it or fight it, or wait to see if the leaking toilet was the culprit?

There is no way to tell if the water pipes underground are leaking. But the inspector said that if you turn off the water valve outside and a pipe was leaking, then the meter dial would be spinning, which it wasn't.
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Postby Winston » Thu May 05, 2011 7:35 pm

Found this interesting webpage about leaking toilets.

http://www.toiletology.com/leaking.shtml

Testing for Leaking Toilets~

Leaky loos are the most common cause of high water bills. "Nine out of ten complaints the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission of Maryland receives about high water bills can be traced to leaking toilets," according to the WSSC Public Affairs Office. People tend to repair drippy faucets because the drips are visible and annoying. Whereas, it's easier to overlook the leaking toilet.

Woman shocked by $1,600 water bill.

MINNEAPOLIS -- A woman received a $1,600 water bill; 20 times the woman's usual bill of $70 to $80 per month. She said her "heart just dropped" when she got her latest bill. The city said she must have a running toilet or dripping faucet. The Associated Press; February 21, 2010

A former neighbor recently paid dearly for this same lesson. She knew one of her toilets had begun to leak, but because she was moving she tried to ignore the problem. Then when the leak got to the point it was impossible to overlook, she turned the water supply to the toilet off. When a $522 water/sewer bill arrived, she was stunned. She had used 36,000 more gallons of water than during the previous 3-month billing period. To make matters worse, the water rates for our area are graduated ... the more you use ... the higher the rate. That leaking flapper cost $333.66!


Is that serious? Can a tiny downleak trickle really make that much of a difference?
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hm.....

Postby Baron » Fri May 06, 2011 3:21 am

They don't usually and intentionally install a part to screw you up.

It is just...

Water is leaking somewhere and you just became the unlucky victim.

You may go fight a lot but still most of them won't give you a flying crap.
The worst situation you can expect is "Don't pay the bill" and "They will block your water line".

Or try to come to a compromise.. that is the best way...

Welcome to the PH.
If you see unusual things happening, tell yourself "Welcome to the Philippines!!" and you can finally understand the truth...
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Postby Mr S » Fri May 06, 2011 3:40 am

You most likely have a more serious water leak somewhere else that is causing the water bill to be so high. There is no way in hell your bill should be that high. I have a leaking shower faucet and I still only pay around 350P a month on water and I'm in Quezon city. If they can't get it fixed I would move cause you'll just be paying more and more each month if they don't fix it. You shouldn't be paying more than 300P a month in a provincial city like AC, more like 150P a month!

Your getting ripped off, regardless. Have the owner fix the pipes, move or continue paying 1000P+ a month water bills!
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Postby Winston » Fri May 06, 2011 10:24 am

Well I looked online and found a lot of articles saying that small toilet leaks, even trickles, can add up to huge water bills.

The thing is, when the water company inspector came, he told me that to check for a leak, you can just turn off the water valve outside and see if the water meter dial is still spinning. If it's not, then there is no leak. If it is, then there is a leak. It was not running when the valve was shut off. So doesn't that rule out a pipe leak?
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Postby Winston » Fri May 06, 2011 11:28 am

Btw, my neighbor came and shut off the toilet valve again cause it was still leaking. I don't know how it got turned back on again. Maybe Dianne or her mom came and turned it back on? Or maybe it wasn't shut down completely the first time. Weird.

Anyway, I'll check the meter to see if it still runs too fast after the leak has been stopped. Either way, an extra $30 a month isn't going to break me. lol
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Postby Winston » Thu May 12, 2011 4:22 am

This is weird. But after the owner's family replaced the parts of the toilet tank today, which stopped the water leak, suddenly the other water valve next to it in the bathroom started leaking. It's as if the leak TRANSFERRED to another valve after it was stopped! Strange. This house is full of bizarre activity. It's as if the house wanted the leak. Maybe it's alive in some way... lol
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Postby Winston » Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:03 am

Hi all,
Just to let you know. After the owner fixed the leaking toilet here, my water bill has now gone back to being 219p per month again. So that was the culprit all along - one leaking toilet. Dang.
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