URCA’s complaint services underutilized
The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s (URCA) complaint services are very much underutilized, and the utility regulator wants the public to issue more formal complaints.
URCA Corporate and Consumer Relations Manager Mavis Johnson-Collie said without complaints that can be logged, legitimized and possibly resolved, URCA will not be able to markedly improve, through statutory channels, the customer experience at the utilities it regulates.
While many Bahamians use social media, word of mouth and talk shows to voice their disappointment with utilities, Johnson-Collie said people rarely want to go on record to make the complaint.
She said if people are dissatisfied with an experience they have had with a utility, their first point of contact should be the company itself.
“In general, we have been trying to increase the opportunity and occasions for the public to complain, because while we may hear persons speaking to issues, we also try to get them to reach out to us, providing details,” she said.
Johnson-Collie explained that in the case of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), URCA is waiting to complete its consumer protection plan (CPP) with the power provider in order to be able to better help those Bahamians who need to resolve an issue.
With major generation reliability issues plaguing BPL over the past few weeks, it would have been expected that complaints would flood into the power company’s regulator. But Johnson-Collie said there have been few.
According to her, the most common complaint from BPL consumers is the reporting of damage to equipment as a result of outages. She said URCA is certain that when the CPP is done there will be a significant increase in the number of people reaching out to URCA to issue formal complaints.
When the CPP is done and comes into force, BPL will have a responsibility to resolve complaints based on the plan.
“If they don’t meet those standards, the regulation speaks to what happens,” said Johnson-Collie.
She said once the CPP is complete URCA will do a countrywide public awareness campaign, so that Bahamians understand what recourse is available when it comes to protecting themselves from undue losses or unfair practices.
URCA’s annual report will eventually document the number of complaints and resolutions for the regulated sectors, according to Johnson-Collie.