NWC customers bristle at $100 charge as payment kiosks take over
National Water Commission (NWC) customers will now have to fork out an additional $100 when paying their utility bills using cash at some of the company’s locations. The remote bill payment kiosks, which are installed at its offices at Marescaux...
National Water Commission (NWC) customers will now have to fork out an additional $100 when paying their utility bills using cash at some of the company’s locations.
The remote bill payment kiosks, which are installed at its offices at Marescaux Road, Kingston; Bevin Avenue, St James; and Portmore, St Catherine, accept cash payment but are designed for different tender types.
By March, they are expected to be able to facilitate payments via debit and credit cards, which will also incur a $100 charge.
Acting corporate communications manager at the NWC, Delano Williams, told The Gleaner that the move forms part of the agency’s shift towards integrating digital technology into its operations. Eventually, all 14 commercial offices will be equipped with these machines.
The payment kiosks are supplied and maintained by Remote Holdings, whose director is Bruce Wong Ken.
However, some customers at the Marescaux Road branch, where the machine has replaced all cash payments since February, expressed frustration at the additional fee.
“This is robbery!” an irate elderly customer shouted as he waited in line to use the machine.
But, emphasising that the kiosks are convenient, Williams said they are also simple to use.
Customers input their account information and then insert the bank notes to make the payment. The receipt can be sent to the customer via email or be printed, or both.
Wayne Baxter, 55, who used the machine for the first time on Wednesday, acknowledged that the process was efficient. But he is concerned about the added cost he has to bear to pay his water bill.
“Some a we a poor people, you understand. When dem send us bill, we can’t pay it, we haffi a pay it likkle-likkle. So, every time you come and pay $100, it add up,” he said.
“Dem haffi bring it into account that is not everybody can afford the extra money fi pay di money. You can’t just inna people pocket so. A nuh all o’ we have it.”
Another customer went in to pay her bills but decided against it when she was informed of the $100 charge. She told The Gleaner that she has opted to visit an independent bill-payment agency that charges $55 per transaction.
“They could make it $50,” she argued. “It don’t make sense you come to NWC to pay a bill at a machine and you have to pay $100. To me, it does not make sense. Even one dollar count; you can use it to do something.”
Suzanne Stephens, a 73-year-old, harbours concerns that the elderly, who often use these offices to pay their bills, will be at a disadvantage.
“That is stupidness. Dem too t’ief, man. My husband can’t use machine at all, so who is to help him? I don’t like those things,” she said.
Meanwhile, acting director of consumer and public affairs at the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, told The Gleaner that her agency was made aware of the NWC’s decision to install kiosks for bill payment via a media release on January 27.
“While permission does not have to be sought from the OUR on matters such as these, it is normally a courtesy for utility service providers to inform the regulator about initiatives that will likely significantly impact customers, and allow any follow-up queries before such an implementation,” Bennett Marsh said.
But Williams sought to assure that the installation of kiosks will improve the efficiency of the agency.
“With the installation of the kiosks, the NWC’s customer service agents, who are responsible for accepting cash payments, will be able to facilitate even more customer queries and requests at its commercial offices.
“No negative implications are expected for staff, and we would be able to assist more customers with their concerns,” he said.