Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the Industry Ministry and the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority to repay customers after a technical blunder led to big water bills.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said new tariffs on water had put more burdens on ordinary Cambodians “who consumed less but now have to pay a hefty bill”.
“Today, I just realised that water prices in Phnom Penh have increased. People who use less water are now being billed like those who are using large quantities daily,” he wrote.
“It is my call to lower the price for these poor people and I order Minister Cham Prasidh and secretary of state Ek Sonn Chan to work with PPWSA to bill these people at the previous rate.
“I want the people who were overcharged by the new water tariff to be repaid.”
A few hours after the prime minister’s post, both the ministry and water authority said there had been a technical error in calculating the new water tariff.
“The Ministry of Industry would like to inform all our customers in Phnom Penh and Takamao city that due to the technical error and in compliance with Samdech Decho’s order, we have instructed PPWSA to revert back to the old rate based on the previous formula and make repayments to affected customers immediately,” the ministry said.
“We apologise to our customers and assure them we will not repeat this mistake again.”
At the same time the PPWSA, which is a listed company on the Cambodia Securities Exchange, issued an apology and assured all those who had been billed that “there will be no second blunder”.
According to an order issued on May 15 for the new water price, households that consume up to three cubic metres per month should pay 400 riel per cubic metre.
From from four to seven cubic metres the rate is 500 riel per cubic metre.
From eight to 15 cubic metres it is 770 riel. From 16 to 50 cubic metres it is 1,010 riel, and over 50 cubic metres it is1,270 riel per cubic metre.
Ministry secretary of state Ek Sonn Chan said yesterday: “I just had a meeting with the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority because they misunderstood the way to calculate the new price. We issued the order on new water tariffs to comply with the prime minister’s policy of reducing water prices for the poor. There seemed to be a technical mistake in the calculation and we are sorry.
“After our meeting, we agreed to repay our customers in cash if we had overcharged them.”