Jamaicans Urged to Police Utility Companies


The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is urging Jamaicans to police the utility companies to ensure that they deliver on the guaranteed standards.
The standards are a set of service requirements agreed on by OUR and the utility companies, to ensure quality service to customers. Failure by the companies to deliver on these standards results in compensation to customers, once they have submitted a claim.
Manager of Consumer and Public Affairs at the OUR, Garfield Bryan, addressing a meeting of the Manchester Parish Council held recently in Mandeville, said that in many instances, the companies have committed significant breaches but customers have not been claiming, due to ignorance or the feeling that the compensation may be insignificant.
“In 2007, Jamaica Public Service (JPS) committed about 64,000 breaches of the various individual standards, and this should have lead to a compensation of approximately $173 million. What was actually paid out in claims was about $400,000. The story with National Water Commission (NWC) is similar; significant number of breaches, limited claims and, as such, the payment is limited,” he informed.
He said that in addition to sensitising customers about the standards through its various education programmes, the OUR has instituted an automatic payment requirement for the NWC, which provides for an automatic credit to the customer’s account once certain breaches occur, removing reliance on the customer to make a claim.
As it relates to the JPS, Mr. Bryan said that there is currently no such provision, “but going forward, we have converted some of those standards, so once the breach occurs, that company is automatically required to credit that customer’s account.”
Mr. Bryan said that the OUR has about 14 standards for JPS and these relate to matters such as the reading of meters.
He said that currently, JPS reads meters at least once every three months and the OUR has pushed for the company to read the meters monthly. The guaranteed service standard for 2004 to 2009 stipulates that the JPS should issue not more than two consecutive estimated bills where the company has access to the meter.
“That is a part of the reason why they need to have access to the meters on a reasonable basis,” Mr. Bryan said, noting that an estimated bill should be based on the average of the last three actual readings.
On the issue of complaints against a utility company, Mr. Bryan informed that customers must first make contact with the respective utility company and failing a satisfactorily redress, then the OUR should be approached.

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