By Murtland Haley
The Guyana Consumers Association (GCA) in a letter to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) dated August 31, 2017, has stated firmly that GTT should be ordered to return the money it would have collected from applying increased rates for landline calls.
These higher rates were as a result of PUC Order No. 2 of 2017 which permitted GTT to increase its landline metred rates. The new rates were to come into effect on August 1, 2017. However, this increase came with conditions that the telephone company had to satisfy.
GTT had applied for a review of the order, regarding terms in these conditions. In responding to this application for a review, the GCA through its secretary, J. Deonauth, said that in July 2017, the telecommunications company circulated an undated letter entitled ‘BLAZE’ to telephone subscribers informing them of the PUC’s order.
“In that letter, they (GTT) indicated that they were changing the new rates prescribed in the Order, but gave no cognizance whatsoever to the conditions precedent to charging those rates.”
According to the GCA, the conditions were set out on pages two and three of the Order. The conditions set out in the order are: 1. GTT must complete the end to end provisioning of the FITX Phase one in La Grange and commence the commercial launch of services in the areas which they have identified; 2. GTT must submit quarterly detailed appraisals of progress showing the number of new services rolled out, inclusive of rural areas, and that it should not be less than 1000 lines per quarter and 3. Submit quarterly report from the date the rates take effect, showing details of the average time taken to resolve consumer complaints.
The GCA said that GTT’s attempt to partially effect the Order in their own interest was dishonest and as a result, the company should refund customers the money that was collected from the increased rates.
In addition, the GCA also sought to address another matter relating to the review application by GTT.
The Association said that regarding the 1000 lines per quarter, the caption of GTT’s amendment to the Order has no relationship to the content in support of it.
“The content simply said that the figure of 19,000 persons who needed landlines and had not been supplied by GTT is an incorrect figure presented by GTT.”
The telecommunications company in its application for a review had said that the figure of 19,000 outstanding landline applications was an overstatement. GTT had argued that many of the applicants among the 19,000 have relocated and have been served at an entirely different address, while others would have died, migrated or lost interest in having landline service.
However, according to the GCA, the figure of 19,000 had become incorrect because, “GTT had delayed so long in installing such landlines…”
The GCA went further to say, “For a telephone company to make such a damning admission of its ineptitude and inability to perform is astonishing. In its submission under its Caption 1., GTT was merely asking the PUC to substitute a smaller number of outstanding applicants for landline service than the 19,000 they had presented. This is not an application for review or amendment to Order 2. As stated in PUC Order 2/2017 and should be dismissed as a nullity.”
According to the GCA, the PUC order requiring installation of 1000 landlines per quarter still stands. The Association said that as long as there are 1000 applicants for landlines remaining unserved, the PUC’s Order remains effective.
Further, concerning the third condition in the PUC order, the GCA recognised that GTT has accepted the compensatory credit to consumers.
GTT are merely asking to defined the time-frames at which the compensatory credit will take effect.”
The GCA made a suggestion that for the compensatory credit, the rent rebate should be $70 per day; residential plus economic losses of various kinds, $130 per day; and inconvenience, for example contacting police or seeking medical help, $100 per day.
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