Influencer's post over high Dewa bills sparks controversy

Influencers post over high Dewa bills sparks controversy
Screengrab of the TV programme in which Lojain Omran made the statements. (Courtesy: Instagram @lojain_omran)

Dubai - Social media star Lojain Omran complained of her high power and water bills, also criticising subsidised rates offered to UAE citizens


Mustafa Al Zarooni

Published: Fri 8 Sep 2017, 11:13 PM

Last updated: Sat 9 Sep 2017, 1:26 AM

A post by Lojain Omran, a well-known social media personality with millions of followers, sparked widespread resentment among Emiratis when she lashed out at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) after getting an inflated utilities bill.
Furthermore, she accused the authority of offering special, subsidised rates to UAE citizens.
The questions thrown up by this online controversy are: what is the role played by those who're popular on social media networks as "influencers", and if the online mediums are being abused and used in an unprofessional manner?
One reaction to the post came from writer and FNC member Maysa Rashid Ghadeer, who said some of these social media personalities behaved in a manner contrary to the country's interests.
The UAE is home to all - both citizens and expatriates - but there is nothing wrong in providing its citizens certain rights and privileges, affording them higher standards of living compared to other countries. If the amounts paid for basic amenities burdened expatriates, many of them would not have moved to live in the UAE, invest in the country or do business here, is the popular opinion. This is especially pertinent of social media influencers, who benefit from their presence in the country and the opportunities it affords them.
Those who hit back at Omran's statements say that Emiratis do not grudge the foreigners who are well off and live lifestyles accorded by their salaries and allowances. In turn, the expatriates need to stop waffling about citizens' benefits.
In a reply to Omran's post, which went viral on social media, Dewa said in a statement that it looks into the issue whenever power and water bills showed an unusual or unwarranted rise, and the consumer is contacted through several channels for an investigation. He or she is also urged examine the internal connections in their residence using the help of technicians. "Dewa is responsible for outdoor connections up to the meter; the responsibility for maintaining the indoor power and water connections is upon the consumer," the statement said.
The authority also said they do an awareness campaign every summer to familiarise customers with the procedures to be followed before they travel abroad, to temporarily disconnect electricity and water connections.
"The authority takes an array of procedures to communicate with its customers, in the event of a hike in the value of the bill, even before the customer notices it," it stated, adding that this is done via SMS, emails, phone calls as well as written notices. Dewa also notes that the monthly utility bills not only include electricity, water and sewage consumption, but also fees on other government services that it collects on behalf of other entities.

Timeline of the controversy
. Starting June 2017, Dewa and Omran exchange communication over high utility bills
. Services are disconnected, then resorted; Dewa technicians visit Omran's home
. Upto 8 technician visits are made to Omran's home, until Eid Al Adha and after
. In September, Omran expresses her dissatisfaction over Dewa services and over Emirati citizens' preferential treatment on social media and TV
How the issue unfolded
In June 2017, Dewa stated that it communicated with Omran, informing her about the recorded high consumption and there was a likely leakage of water on her premises. In July 2017, the customer paid her utility bills until June.
On August 21, 2017, according to Dewa's internal monitoring system, the customer was informed once again that there was possible leak, as the consumption continued rising. However, the Authority disconnected its service on August 30, as the July and August bills went unpaid.
Later, the services were restored on the customer's request, stating she was out of the country.
"Dewa wants to emphasise that it deals fairly and transparently with customers' complaints as per the rules, including receiving and verifying complaints before sending a team of technician to address the problem," Dewa stated.
It reiterated that in Omran's case, Dewa had repeatedly noted the rise in her monthly consumption through the internal monitoring system and furnished multiple notices to her on the increase in bill value. Moreover, a technical team head had visited her residence on August 31 and examined the reading meter.
In a subsequent report, Dewa said the rise in the power bill was only due to the July-August unpaid bills, but the rise in water consumption was due to leakage. It states the technical team visited the premises up to eight times, including the Eid Al Adha holiday on September 3. It then appeared that the occupants had returned from holiday, so Dewa did not cut the water supply.
On the evening of September 6, the technical team visited the house for the ninth time. On that occasion, Omran expressed her dissatisfaction over the services provided by Dewa's technical and administrative teams, although the team remained on hand until 3 am at the site for checking and follow-ups.
"The authority welcomes remarks and queries from all customers via its official channels and responds with services that follow the highest international standards, and is open to opinions and remarks from everyone," it stated.

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