Aug 10, 2013 News Comments Off on $85M in consumer credit from utilities over nine years – PUC
By Rehanna Ramsay
Over the last nine years, the Public Utilities Commission, (PUC) has aided in accumulating approximately $85 million worth of consumer credit from the main utility service providers.
“The PUC functions are regulatory, investigatory, enforcement and such other functions conferred on it by the Public Utilities Commission Act No.10 of 1999, with respect to the utilities which comes under its purview, such as, Telecommunications, Electricity and Water and Sewerage.”
Nikita Somwaru, Chief Engineer and Complaints Manger (Ag) of PUC explained during an interview at the Church Street, Queenstown Main Office, recently.
Somwaru told Kaieteur News that although the complaints process takes time based on the response of the utility companies; most costumers have received favourable outcomes.
“Based on records we have had hundreds of costumers approach the commission and while the purpose of the commission is not to take the side of the consumer or the utility company, in most cases consumers acquire the required assistance.”
He briefly explained the process duration.
“Complaints made via the PUC would normally take a maximum of 120 days for response from the companies, however, the company may take a long time to respond based on the information provided, whether it is adequate or not, but all parties must adhere to the final decision.”
Somwaru explained that while consumer reports are lodged at the commission in relation to Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) and even Digicel, complaints against the main electricity provider, Guyana Power and Light Incorporated (GPL) have topped the list significantly.
The PUC is a judicial body that monitors the rate ceiling of GPL, GWI, GT&T and Digicel.
“These Utility Service providers are answerable to the PUC, in any decision-making process that will impede the lives of consumers.”
In many cases, Somwaru said, consumers do not know their rights, thus whenever issues arise in relation to these service providers, they are usually prolonged.
The Engineer also pointed out that the issue of monopoly has assisted in intimidating the consumer, since there are not many alternatives.
“The issue with companies like GPL, and GWI, is monopoly…Since these companies have the total control… being sole providers, costumers often give into threats like ‘pay up or be disconnected’…With more competition or competitiveness the consumer is given a fair alternative.”
Somwaru said that promotions also play a great role in this aspect.
“As in the case of GT&T and Digicel, the consumer has options through this healthy competitiveness process, this also guarantees better bargains for the buyer.”
The Public Utilities Commission, now more accessible to the public, has been in existence since October 1, 1990. It was created to foster an environment in which there is universal access to service in the public sector, as well as a high quality services which are cost effective and beneficial to all stakeholders.
The commission aims at establishing and enforcing the rules and procedures for the regulation of public utilities, commensurate with internationally accepted regulatory standards.
Efforts of the PUC are to ensure that consumers get a fair deal, a safe and adequate service at reasonable costs, while at the same time assuring the financial integrity of the utility companies.
The Commission presently consists of a Chairman, who is a full time official, and three other Commissioners, who are appointed and serve on a part-time basis.
The general public can uplift necessary information and assistance from the PUC via the Church Street, Queenstown Main Office or visit the entity’s website.
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