Recently here in Victoria there has been a lot of outrage over an unfortunate overcharging of customers of Melbourne Water. It came about because the charging for the De Sal plant kicked in before completion.
The customers were not amused.
To make matters worse MW are still trying to work out how to deal with the problem including suggestions of paying back the now $220 million over the next 5 years.
As you can well imagine, FaceBook is awash with folk demanding all sorts of things including class actions and instant return of the money but here’s the rub. Discussions on FB seem to be taking a number of lines
- Somebody must be punished
- Everyone should be instantly compensated by having the money returned now
- Poor people have to pay on time so why shouldn’t a Government body (seriously, this was one line of argument)
I’m not a big fan of option one which I call the revenge motivation. In government bodies it’s almost impossible to sheet home the blame and sack someone. Sure you might take out the top dog but generally it’s anyone’s guess as to who is to blame and usually it’s more than one person. Claiming a Government Minister is totally pointless and even counterproductive.
Option two is where the “twice” bit comes into it. There is no pot of money sitting under a departmental desk that can be doled out to all and sundry next week. Money costs money and $220 million costs a lot in interest. To pay back instantly MW would have to borrow the money and guess who pays for that in the long run? The poor folk who aren’t exactly flush with funds in the first place.
Same goes for the class action. Aside from some lawyers, who really benefits? Even if you managed to get a better result than the money back plus interest plus inflation, who pays for it? Yep. The poor customer.
The third idea was especially annoying. If a Government body owes me money it is to my advantage from both the interest they will pay and from them not having borrowed the money and me pay the interest rate. On the other hand if a customer doesn’t pay their bill it’s to my cost. If enough don’t pay on time then I, as a customer have to carry their load or pay the interest to cover the non payment.
Particularly disappointing was the social justice line. People not in the line of fire want the poor who have been dudded to pay for the privilege of getting the money back immediately. If that isn’t rubbing salt into the wound I don’t know what is.
Yes. There is a social issue here but expecting the less well off to pay for a grandstand is hardly fair.
More reading here.