Got Calculator?

Miscalculated electricity bill

You would think with the huge amount of money being spent on government compute power, and organisations which supposedly “professionally” over-see them – in this case I am told it is the CIO – you would think that those computers and their programmers can do simple maths, don’t you think?

Not in Bahrain!

Calculate my last electricity bill with me if you would:

    Current (estimated) reading 10,808 – Last reading 10,387 units = 421 units consumed.

So how can it possibly get to the 12,630 units they calculated?

I checked the meter when I received the bill just to be sure, I mean this is an estimated bill and the actual reading might very well be different, and it was, but by not that much of an amount. It was only 11,081.

Now the doubts in my mind are whizzing around, like most mugs on this island, I just pay it with hardly a glance at the figures on the bill, blindly trusting the government in this regard. My worry is how much of a ride was I taken with previous bills and were they in fact correct?

I wonder how many households in Bahrain have been given the same treatment and maybe as a result – although remote – got their electricity wrongly disconnected, or got filched of their monthly salary just to pay for such a mistake.

We went to the Electricity office to enquire and get an explanation, the guy apparently looked at the bill and concluded that it was in fact incorrect. He told us that we have two options: either pay a bit of it on our estimation for this month and the rest will be carried forward, or just ignore it and it will be corrected in the next bill.

Needless to say, I’ll wait for the next bill, thank you very much.

update 4 Sept, ’07: We finally got to the bottom of this issue; and the truth is even stranger than fiction:

The Electricity Dept has now informed me that the meter that I have at home is “of the large kind”. Which means that the units it registers are reduced by a factor of 30. Which means that whatever the difference between the current and last meter reading should be multiplied by 30 in order to get the actual consumption!

In this case, the difference in this bill come to 421 “Big Meter” units now multiply that with 30 and you get the actual reading they show which is 12,630. Which means that the bank balance will be really hit this month even with the “programmed” blackouts we get twice a day in our neighbourhood.

And do they have that little bit of information about the 30x multiplier anywhere on the bill? Nope. That’s left to develop our clairvoyant skills.

    13 August 2007

    It just makes sense to check any bills you have, statements, etc. Not necessarily fine-tooth-comb them, just a quick look over to make sure everything is in order, and no funny business is going on. Everyone makes mistakes, including the bigger, more professional banks, and more often than you think. You think our ministries aren’t going to screw up?

  • nibaq
    13 August 2007

    Be a Kuwaiti and just not pay. ,)

  • mahmood
    13 August 2007

    ah that’s the life..

    Unfortunately my friend, if we don’t pay they cut the supply and in this heat that’s not an option!

  • Iris
    13 August 2007

    Sounds terribly familiar.
    Luz y Fuerza del Centro here in Mexico City has done something similar with our electricity bill. We complained and asked them to recheck the readings. Unfortunately we had to pay that month but got a balance in our favor for the next 4 months and haven’t had to pay for nearly 5 months.

  • Capt. Arab
    13 August 2007

    The incompetent rods charged me for water consumption on my commercial electric bill, it took me almost 3 years to convince them that I did not have a water connection, even though three inspectors visited the premises to ensure just that. I am still waiting for my refund…

  • mahmood
    13 August 2007

    and haven’t had to pay for nearly 5 months

    hehe, I’m in the very same situation actually, but on the water side as I have been vastly over-charged. I have been not been paying these bills for 5 months owing to the credit I received due to mis-charging me for water use.

    To cut a long story short, the water meter became unserviceable and they didn’t have any spares to replace it with; hence, in their wisdom, they decided to over-estimate my use although if I explained to them once I explained to them a thousand times that I have installed the irrigation system in the garden and excellent fittings in the house to ensure that we do our part for our environment and reduce our water use as much as possible, and demonstrated to them with previous bills the average water consumption, but they wouldn’t believe me.

    I threw a hissy fit after a year and demanded that they unearth a meter from hell for all I care or I’m picketing their customer service (I know, don’t laugh – and I’m not talking about the picketing part!) department and write to all the papers unless they do something about it.

    Miraculously a brand new DIGITAL water meter was produced and installed. After a couple of months I went to them with the bills to show them that my average was in fact correct and their estimation was overboard. They believed me and refunded me the difference.

    I think this is probably the last month for the credit as it has been consumed. I don’t care about the money as much as proving me right.

    I guess it’s sparky’s turn to see that I’m right again!

  • Capt. Arab
    13 August 2007

    lucky you… time to pick a fight, on the other hand maybe i’ll leave it till the weather gets cooler.

  • Abdulkarim
    13 August 2007

    My conciliation to you Mahmood is that you are not the only one who pays his electricity bill without checking it. I, along with I am sure many others, are guilty of the same sin.

    I like to believe that we have understanding officials at the Ministry of Electricity who would admit to their mistake and make amend as you have discovered! I truly believe that there are really some nice people there (It is pity they never pick up the phone when you call though).

    The bills that I really check every bit of are my bank and credit cards statement for it is here that one is more likely to be fleeced. Worse still, you would not have the sympathetic listening ears of the Electricity officials. Rather, you would be rather lucky to come out of any encounter with those bankers intact!

  • ehsan
    14 August 2007

    Here’s a nice related urban legend…

    Many months ago, a major Bahraini telecoms company had a little glitch in their billing system. The error effectively rendered all current month call records useless.

    What this effectively meant, is that said company could not calculate the bills for the current month, unless that customer had the detailed billing option which is handled by another system.

    So faced with the prospect of having to waive customers’ bills (and losing hundreds of thousands of Dinars), the corporate officials got together and devised a brilliant plan.

    Instead of giving everyone free calls, they figured out how to charge people for the usage the company no record of.

    By looking at each customer’s previous bills, they devised a method to calculate the running average. If someone paid 10 Dinars every month, chances are their current bill will be 10 Dinars as well. “Let’s charge people what they are used to paying!” they proclaimed.

    The lovable company proceeded with this plan, calculating thousands of fake usage reports based on the average of past bills.

    Needless to say, some scenarios such as new customers or bursts in usage might have misguided the average calculation, but the process went ahead nonetheless.

    The bills were faked, distributed to the nation, and the payments started coming in.

    The company officials watched nervously, expecting people to notice their fake charges any second. The days went on, and the payments kept coming in.

    Complaints? Not so many…

    By the end of the billing cycle, 15% of the userbase had raised disputes regarding their bill. But that was really fine; you see, 15% is the average percentage of disputes the company got in previous months.

    And so ended the greatest scam in Bahraini billing history. More than 300,000 customers with fake bills–nobody noticed, nobody cared. Life went on and the company made millions in profit.

    Of course this is just a myth, which can never be proven…

  • mahmood
    14 August 2007


    This certainly is worth investigating.

  • Lorena
    14 August 2007

    I belive you .. is like my phone bill I whent to batelco office and I talk to the guy in there and I ask him how much was my phone bill .. to pay when hubby was away … i didnt get the bill at home so i was worry that they can cut the line.. the guy told me Madam is 300 dinars … I say WHAT?? i say and why is that? he say well you havent pay since last april .. I laught he did 2 .. i told him see.. your company will never keep my line on if i dont pay on time … how come it will be with out payment for 4 months and my line still on? … he told me you are right please bring your paymens .. so now we whent to the banck to get the latest statments of the credit card to show them that tahy are wrong … he told me you can pay and then they can fix it .. i say no way .. I wont pay 1000 us for some thing i haven’t use … Ayman alhamad take from us 1000 us last 4 of julie and tiesto thing … I wont let batelco to rip us off …….Im very pissed off

  • Iris
    14 August 2007

    Slightly off topic: How much do you pay for water in Bahrain and is it of drinking quality?

    Telmex is also very fast in cutting you off the telephone net if you don’t pay the last day mentioned on the bill.
    Luz y Fuerza del Centro do the same and it takes 5 days and a juicy bribe to get them coming over (the head office is just 2 blocks away!) to reconnect. (Experienced after a long Europe vacation.)

  • Lorena
    14 August 2007

    Hi Iris … I dont know about TELMEX im mexican ,, I dont live in mexico long time ago …but i belive you ….mexico is also a mess LOL are you mexican?

  • Iris
    15 August 2007

    Hola Lorena:

    No, I’m German. I’ve been living in Mexico for 9 years (again). My half-sister is Mexican and German but was born in Singapore. You might know how that is if the family moves from one continent to another.

  • Lorena
    15 August 2007

    Yup i know … but is fun .. i really like it ! … 😆

  • mahmood
    15 August 2007

    How much do you pay for water in Bahrain and is it of drinking quality?

    If you had a choice, you would never drink the tap water. It is very brackish although it is of drinking quality. No idea what a prolonged exposure to it would do to your kidneys, but we are assured that it is drinkable.

    Most people either install filters in their homes to desalinate the water and use that for drinking and cooking, or buy bottled water. The 5 gallon water bottle ranges in price between $2 – $3 dependant on vendor. The smaller 1/2 litre branded bottles are much more expensive than that. Typically, a 1/2 litre “normal” bottle sells for 100 fils (about 26c) which makes its price double that of high-octane petrol! The latter is sold at 100 fils a litre for 98 octane unleaded.

  • Steve the American
    24 August 2007


    I don’t know how it works in Bahrain but your meter reading may not match your monthly statement here in the States because they don’t read the meter every month like they used to in the good old days. To economize, the meter reader swings by every three or four months and they estimate the amount in the months in between. Oddly enough, they usually estimate on the high side.

  • mahmood
    24 August 2007

    We have them read every month here. Simply to keep people employed, and they still get it wrong. In this case, it’s not human error but a huge computer one as you have seen.

It’s coming…