Monday 10 August, 2020

Utility companies pay out $87 million to customers in March quarter

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iStock image.

Utility companies paid out approximately $87 million for service breaches to customers during the January to March quarter 2020, the Office of Utilities Regulation's (OUR)  quarterly report has revealed.

The latest figures are contained in the OUR’s Quarterly Performance Report for January to March 2020 and reflects a combination of sums paid out for breaches of the Guaranteed Standards and payments/credit resulting from OUR’s direct intervention to resolve matters brought to its attention.

Approximately $57.9 million of the $87 million was secured for utility customers through the invention of the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU).

Of this sum, Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) paid out the highest share of $57.8 million (99 per cent), the majority of which was credited to one of its largest customers, the National Water Commission (NWC).

The remaining one per cent of credits/compensation to customers was shared among C&WJ (Flow), Columbus Communications (Flow), Digicel, and the NWC.

Additionally, $28 million and $1 million was paid out by the JPS and the NWC respectively, for breaches of the Guaranteed Standards.

JPS’s compliance report on its Guaranteed Standards’ performance indicated that 13,071 breaches were committed between January and February 2020.

No data were provided for March up to the time of publication of the OUR’s Quarterly report.

Non-compliance regarding Estimated Bills (which restricts JPS from sending more than two consecutive estimates without a penalty), Connection to Supply (the time within which JPS is to make a simple connection) and Reconnection (which requires JPS to restore supply with 24 hours of payment of overdue amounts) accounted for the highest incidents of breaches.

The non-compliance with these standards accounted for approximately 99 per cent of breaches and compensatory payments.

The NWC’s Guaranteed Standards compliance report indicates that 557 breaches were committed during this quarter, which represents a seven per cent increase when compared with the preceding period.

These breaches had a potential pay-out of approximately $1.98 million but actual payments amounted to approximately $1 million.

The actual payments represented 51 per cent of total potential payments and were made by way of automatic credits to the affected accounts. The remaining 49 per cent of potential payments not made, represented those breaches for which the required claim forms were not submitted for validation.

The standards with the highest incidents of breaches for the NWC were: Meter Installation (which stipulates that meters should be install within 30 working days upon request); Access (which requires that new service connections are made within 10 working days); Meter Repair/Replacement (which requires that meter repairs or replacements must be completed within 20 working days) and Meter Reading (which restricts the NWC to sending no more than two consecutive estimates, where it has access to its meter).

These four standards represented 86 per cent of total breaches and 82 per cent of potential payments.

During the quarter, the CAU receiving 1,033 contacts, which represents a four per cent increase over the preceding period.

Billing matters continued to be the main reason for customer contact during the  January – March 2020 period and represented 41 per cent or 420 of total contacts received.

These matters included adjustments to customers’ accounts, estimated billings, high consumption, disputed charges, and billing punctuality.

JPS and NWC accounted for the most billing contacts with 180 (17 per cent) and 151 (15 per cent), respectively. C&WJ (Flow) and Columbus Communications (Flow) accounted for 57 (6  per cent) and 15 ( one per cent), respectively, while Digicel, Private Telecommunications Providers, Private Water Providers, and contacts not utility related accounted for the remaining 17 ( two per cent).

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