During the four-month government implemented emergency orders due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) experienced a 16 percent reduction in payments from customers after the government ordered the power company not to conduct any disconnections, according to the company’s Manager of Credit and Collections Katherine Demeritte, who added that those eligible for disconnection account for about 20 percent of BPL’s customers.
Demeritte, who made the remarks while being a guest on radio talk show “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio, said BPL is hoping customers organize payment plans so that their service is not interrupted.
According to Demeritte, those whose accounts are three months in arrears and more than $500 are facing immediate disconnection.
While the government said in March that no connections would be carried out during the emergency orders, BPL’s Public Relations Director Quincy Parker said the power company’s executive team sought to change direction on disconnections as the company is in need of revenue.
“The decision to resume disconnections was made by BPL after consultation with the government of The Bahamas,” said Parker.
“It is in the best interest of both the consumers and BPL that we get the revenue in the doors and unfortunately people sometimes need the stick rather than the carrot.
“The ability of the company to offer a service at the level the people require is directly tied to the cash flow and the ability to make good business decisions based on good business income. And if people don’t pay their bills, that hurts our cash flow and limits our ability to offer the service that we are being paid to offer. We need people to pay their bills.”
Demeritte explained that BPL is willing to develop payment plans for any customer, especially given the circumstances the country finds itself in due to COVID-19.
“We’re not trying to tax anyone unduly,” she said.
“What we’re trying to do is we need to get the arrears in simply because we still have responsibilities, like the fuel and all of that. We’re trying to encourage persons to do something.”
She said some people who began a payment program as the emergency order went into effect now have a balance of zero.
She encouraged people to call or email BPL to set up a payment plan, instead of visiting the office given the COVID-19 social protocols in place.
Demeritte added that the company has seen a 20 to 80 percent increase (depending on the method) in online or alternative methods of payment since the onset of COVID-19.