Friday 23 August, 2019

JPS, NWC falling short in notifying customers of planned outages

The major water and energy service providers are failing to meet the required standards for notifying their customers of planned service disruptions.

As part of their agreed Quality of Service Standards, the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) and the National Water Commission (NWC) are required to submit reports to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on their performance. One such report relates to their performance in notifying customers within a specified timeline about planned outages.

The compliance results are contained in the OUR’s latest Quarterly Performance Report (QPR) for the July – September 2018 period, which is available on the OUR’s website.

One of JPS’ overall standards requires it to notify customers at least 48 hours (two days) ahead of planned outages. For the July – September 2018 period, JPS reported a 47.7 per cent compliance rating in meeting this standard, way below the agreed 100 compliance target. It was a 6.1 percentage points decline over the preceding period.

In a media release, the OUR said JPS has advised that it is yet to implement measures to ensure that its compliance rating improves.

The NWC’s performance targets stipulate that it must maintain a 98 per cent compliance target for providing 12 hours’ notice for planned service interruptions lasting no more than four hours. Where a planned interruption is expected to be for more than four hours, the NWC is required to give an advanced notice of at least 24 hours, at a 90 per cent compliance rate.

Based on the information that was provided by the NWC, it attained an 81 per cent compliance rating with the standard to provide at least 24 hours’ advance notice prior to disruptions lasting more than four hours. The OUR said no data was received for any notification to customers for planned service interruptions lasting less than four hours.

The OUR has written to both the JPS and the NWC requesting that they provide information on the reasons for their inability to meet the agreed targets, and the measures being put in place to ensure future compliance.

Both entities have been asked to respond to the OUR by January 25, 2019.

Other information in the QPR also revealed that the utility customers benefitted from payouts of over $37 million for breaches of the Guaranteed Standards, as well as credits and compensation secured for them by the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU).

The JPS compliance report on its Guaranteed Standards’ performance indicated that 17,634 breaches were committed, representing a three per cent decline in comparison to the preceding quarter. These breaches attracted compensation of $34.95 million, which was made through automatic compensation.

Similar to the preceding period, the standard with the highest incidence of breaches related to estimated bills, which restricts JPS from sending more than two consecutive estimates without a penalty.

The NWC’s compliance report on the Guaranteed Standards scheme showed that there were 550 breaches, representing a 13 per cent decrease over the last quarter. Those breaches had a potential payout of $1.75 million, while actual payments amounted to $1.16 million (representing 66 per cent of total potential payments), which were made by way of automatic credits to the affected accounts.

The remaining 34 per cent of potential payments represented those breaches for which the required claim forms were not submitted for validation.

The standards with the highest incidence of breaches for the NWC included ‘Meter Repair/Replacement’, which requires that meter repairs or replacements must be completed within 20 working days after a defect is identified or reported, and ‘Access’, which requires that new service connections are made within 10 working days of payment.

Through the intervention of the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU), $999,261.01 in compensation payment was secured for utility customers overall. Of this amount, the NWC accounted for eight per cent, while JPS and Columbus Communications (Flow) registered 85 per cent and six per cent respectively. The remaining one per cent was jointly attributable to C&WJ and Digicel.

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