By Shermain Bique-Charles
More than 250 residents have signed a petition demanding the country’s sole utility provider, APUA, recall and quash estimated bills calculated during the peak of the lockdown.
The online petition, organised by the Democratic National Alliance party (DNA), has a target of 500 signatures and urges APUA to reissue new bills based on average consumption by the consumer over the last three months. The DNA claims that formula would be more representative of actual usage.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption globally in every country and in all spheres of life and Antigua and Barbuda is no exception,” the petition on change.org states.
“Our citizens and residents have responded positively to the various calls from the authorities to exercise personal responsibility in the conduct of their lives and interactions with others in the collective effort to contain the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus.”
The party says thousands of people across the country have suffered the sudden loss of employment or reduced work days, and the consequential financial hardships have been brutal.
“The plight of our people has worsened by the government’s inability to provide both social and economic relief to individuals and businesses who have been left without the proverbial paddle or canoe,” the petition continues.
APUA previously advised consumers that April’s bills would be estimated to protect both meter readers and customers. But the DNA said, while the party broadly accepts the measure, it expects the company to be “reasonable, rational, understanding, fair, judicious, caring and honest in determining the ‘estimates’ which form the basis of our bills which we are expected to pay without murmur”.
It alleges “inexplicable and astronomical” increases in both April and May bills, dubbing them as “without rhyme or reason and downright advantageous”.
“How could APUA expect consumers – the majority of whom are unemployed or have exhausted their savings – to pay these bills which are at least three times more than their average bills?” the petition claims.
APUA spokeswoman Sharifa George confirmed bills were only estimated for April and that meter readers had been back at work to calculate subsequent demands. She added that customers with a query were encouraged to call 480-7150 or visit an APUA store to address it.