PETALING Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) decision for its assessment billing to go fully digital effective this year has caught ratepayers off guard.
Last month, MBPJ issued a notice on its website and social media platforms that it would no longer post physical copies of assessment bills in 2021 and urged ratepayers to check and pay their bills via eCukai@MBPJ app.
There was also a warning that the city council will not entertain exceptions for late payments on grounds of not having received physical bills.
Ratepayers are upset and frustrated by the lack of forthcoming information by MBPJ and lack of options for non-tech-savvy users such as senior citizens.
Some who attempted the digital method, have faced problems registering an account via the app or while navigating MBPJ’s website.
“None of our residents received any notice or message from MBPJ about the electronic billing system or how to download and use the app, ” said Damansara Utama Residents and Owners Association (Duroa) president Habeeb Rahman.
“We were only made aware when one committee member alerted Duroa’s chat group after coming across such a notice and we had to check with our area councillor about it.”
Habeeb said he personally tried downloading the app but struggled to register an account.
“It’s unfair for MBPJ to penalise late payments since there hasn’t been much publicity on electronic assessment bills.
“The city council can’t just assume everyone knows how to pay online, ” he said, adding that it should have at least notified residents group representatives before implementing the new procedure.
“It’s fine if MBPJ wants to go paperless but the transition should be done in stages.
“For example, it can offer the option of allowing people to pay the first term in cash and to go online for the second term.”
MBPJ’s assessment bills are typically issued over two terms – for the first and second halves of the year.
The payment deadline for the first term and second terms are Feb 28 and Aug 31 respectively, although ratepayers can choose to pay for two terms in advance.
Section 10 Residents Association president Ronald Danker said residents were only made aware of the move to go online upon seeing a banner posted by their assemblyman.
“As a neighbourhood with many senior citizens, we are disappointed with the move, ” he said, adding that not all were familiar with digital devices.
“Some live alone or have difficulties walking, so they get a neighbour to help or carpool to MBPJ’s office to pay their assessment bills.”
Danker said he resorted to paying his assessment bill in person at the MBPJ headquarters after his daughter found it difficult to get it done digitally.
“Even then, I had to make two trips. I was turned away when I arrived late morning on the first day due to crowd control measures.
“I arrived early the second day and made sure I brought a copy of my own bill as I was told it would have been more difficult for the staff to look up my records without it, ” he said.
Similarly, Lengkok Golf SS7 Rukun Tetangga chairman Datuk Lamien Sawiyo said, “MBPJ should give options. They can’t assume that all senior citizens are tech-savvy.
“The city council should implement this in stages and not be so harsh in penalising late payments for non-digital users, ” he said, adding that nobody in his neighbourhood had received notices thus far.
Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lim Yi Wei expressed concern about how senior citizens and those who were less tech-savvy were impacted by the move.
“The city council should have an option for those who want to get their bill through post.
“Looking at how it took time for people to familiarise using QR codes for contact tracing purposes due to Covid-19, it is only fair that MBPJ gives about a two-year period for assessment bill payment to go fully digital, ” she said.
However, Section 17 property owner Eddy Peter felt it was not a big deal as MBPJ’s assessment rates had remained the same since 2006, so there was no need for a physical bill.
“Since it’s the same amount each term, I’ll pay for up to two years via online banking each time, ” said Peter, who keeps track of his bills and expenses digitally.
“It’s time for people to adapt.
“If they can handle online payments for banks, credit card, phone and utility bills, I don’t see why they can’t do it with their assessment tax.
“Assessment billing is one of the last to go electronic.
“While most bills require the user to review before making payment, it’s not necessary for MBPJ’s assessment bill since the rate hasn’t changed, ” he said.
To make things easier, he suggested that MBPJ offer an auto debit option or 0% installment plan.
According to MBPJ, the move from physical to electronic assessment billing would provide convenience for more than 250,000 property owners and save the city council RM800,000 in yearly operational costs.
“Between January and October 2020, about 2,000 bills were returned to us due to problems such as incomplete addresses or bills being sent to properties with no occupants, ” it said in a Facebook post.
“The 1,067 complaints received last year by those who didn’t receive their bills will be resolved with the eCukai@MBPJ app, which is available for Android and iOS platforms.
“Its integration with the ePay@MBPJ app means property owners can check, pay and change their addresses via eCukai@MBPJ.”