Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DEWA Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do

Bit of a rant this. Sorry. Not.

DEWA (Dubai Electricity & Water err, Authority, Agency, Alligators) have announced that customers can now pay their bills at ENOC gas stations. This is a good thing, unless you are unfortunate enough to have been disconnected, in which case you must go to an actual DEWA office.

We were disconnected a few weeks ago. I didn't blog about it then because I would probably have broken my keyboard with the ferocity of my angry typing. Here's the story.

Our electricity and water usage has always been modest, and we used to be fairly relaxed about paying the bill. DEWA seemed to be ok with a growing outstanding amount as long as it didn't exceed the amount of your deposit, which for an apartment is Dhs 1,000. I would pay the bill every three or four months, and they never told me how much they hated me.

But, about a year ago, DEWA became a collection agency for the Municipality Property TAX, and also for the Dhs333 per month Gardens Central Cooling charge. (By the way, this charge was waived for people working in Media City, Internet City or Jebel Ali Free Zone, until a year ago, thereby creating another sneaky addition to our cost of living). So our DEWA bill shot up from about Dhs 250 a month to about Dhs 800.

BetterArf set up an automated payment thingie on her credit card, and theoretically we should have been OK. So when the power was cut off a few weeks ago I was fairly sure it was a general failure, and not an act of vindictiveness by DEWA. We've actually had four or five power cuts in the past few months, and they generally last less than an hour. I went and had lunch somewhere, fully expecting the power to be restored when I got back.

It wasn't.

I called DEWA, who confirmed we had been disconnected. I asked them if they'd received the automated payment a few weeks ago. Yes, indeed they had, but there was still an outstanding balance of Dhs 1,200. OK, no problem, switch the power back on, and we'll pay that next month.
'Oh, we can't do that, you have to pay it now.'

'Right,' says I, 'where's your Jebel Ali office?'

'Ah,' she says, 'you know the Mazaya Centre near Defence Roundabout?'

'Indeed I do, I've been there several times, but now I live in Jebel Ali, so I need to know where your Jebel Ali office is'.

'The one near Defence Roundabout is the nearest one.'

In case you are unfamiliar with the geography of Dubai, this is about 350 kilometers away (I'm lying, it's about 35 kms, but it involves going on the Sheikh Zayed Road, so it would take at least half an hour, and quite likely a lot longer depending on the congestion / 'accident' situation). This is massively inconvenient. I'm getting a bit angry now, so I ask to be transferred to her boss. This guy is completely unhelpful. I mean completely. He spoke to me as if I was a piece of talking camel dung. I complain that the power was disconnected without any warning. He asks if I had not seen the red writing on the bill. I foolishly admit that I never read the bill, it just goes straight in the round file. He is quite simply unable to understand this, surely my DEWA bill is the most important thing in my world?

I try another tack. Hardly any of the outstanding amount is for electricity or water, it is unfair to disconnect the power under these circumstances, and we have made a substantial payment already this month. He says it's such a huge amount that they had no choice. I'm puzzled by this choice of words and ask him what he means. He explains that it is much more than our deposit, and how does he know that I'm not planning to run up an even bigger bill and then run away from the UAE without paying it? What fucking planet are you on mister, I'm thinking. He sounded like a local, by the way. I withdraw that last sentence. No, I don't. Shit. Anyway, this is clearly going nowhere at all, so I decide to try to get some useful information out of him, while he's on. I ask him when they are going to open an office in West Dubai to serve the huge new population there. He says, with evident pride, that he is not aware of any such plans.

So there's nothing for it, I'll have to risk my life on Sheikh Zayed Road, and waste two hours of my life just to pay a fucking bill. And by the way, this was in the old Beemer when the AC wasn't working, the windows wouldn't open and it was the middle of a hot afternoon. Worse than yeuckh.

The irony of DEWA not having an office in Jebel Ali is that they have about eight king-size power stations there. It's not like they couldn't turn a little bit of one into some kind of service centre. Or rent a shop in Ibn Battuta or something.

And while I'm on with DEWA-bashing, they stole Dhs 2,000 from me. Several years ago we lived in a villa, and the deposit for villas is Dhs 2,000. When we left I tried to get it refunded, but they insisted on me producing the original receipt. I had turned the house upside down looking for it, to no avail. I had gazillions of other receipts, but I must have put this one in a special super-secure place because it was worth money. Buggered if I could find it though. I try logic on them: you've been supplying me with electricity and water for xx years - would you have done that if I had not paid the deposit? Does your computer not show that I have paid the deposit?

'You have to bring the receipt, you worthless piece of talking camel dung'.