In a landmark ruling, South African court’s have ruled against the City of Johannesburg in a billing dispute.
The Court found that the onus is on the municipality, not the client, to prove the accuracy of the meter readings on which the disputed bills were based.
In essence, accurate and complete billing data is at the core of any successful business. Disputes may arise for many reasons, including:
- Disagreements of contractual terms or conditions, for example, disagreements over an agreed rate, or negotiated discount
- Alleged errors. Disputes may be linked, as in this case, to consumption. Alternatively, payments may be delayed or disputed due to incorrect or missing billing information.
- Simple delaying tactics: A consumer may dispute a bill simply to delay or avoid payment, particularly if the supplier has a history of billing issues.
Disputes of this nature are not unique to municipalities. Similar disputes could arise with any business but companies that provide a variable service – such as telecommunications operators, utilities companies and professional services companies are particularly vulnerable.
The link to poor quality data may not be obvious – in many cases, disputes will be blamed on systems, processes or human error.
Given, however, that the supplier is required to prove the accuracy of the bills it makes sense that accurate billing data – for the complete revenue assurance process must be available. From our experience in dealing with a number of companies like CoJ this is often not the case.
Quality data supported by sound data lineage can provide the supplier with:
- Evidence that the meter was installed at the consumer site
- Evidence that the correct meter was being read
- Evidence that the correct meter was tested in the vent of a dispute
Given, however, that the supplier is required to prove the accuracy of the bills it makes sense that accurate billing data – for the complete revenue assurance process must be available. From our experience this is often not the case.
Of course, billing is not the only area where poor quality data has a direct impact on profitability. Our new whitepaper, 5 Ways that Quality Data Drives Revenue – looks at billing and various other examples where a focus on data can deliver lasting increases in revenue.
All of us, from time to time, experience issues with our bills. Maybe our eToll bill shows travel we never made, or our mobile data usage is off the chart. This court ruling requires that the supplier can prove the accuracy and completeness of the invoice.
Sound data governance and data quality are enablers to ensure that this proof is robust.