Barbados Regulator Increases Pressure on Utility Providers to Improve Service

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday November 9, 2017 – The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) is bringing the hammer down on this country’s utility providers, Barbados Light & Power (BL&P), the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and Cable & Wireless (C&W), which operates in the island as FLOW.

In tough new and amended standards of service, the FTC is now forcing the three providers to up their standards, and in some cases, to automatically compensate customers for failure to meet the FTC set standards, even without a formal written complaint from their customers.

In a long list of new rules that take effect from January 1, 2018, the state regulatory body has told the BL&P, C&W and the state-owned BWA that failure to follow the rules could result in fines of BDS$100,000 (US$50,000) on conviction and BDS$10,000 (US$5,000) for every day the breaches continue.

For the BL&P, which is owned by Canadian power giant Emera, it will have to automatically compensate customers, from BDS$45 (US$22.50) for domestic clients and up to BDS$215 (US$107.50) for large commercial clients, for loss of service.

What’s more, in the tough impositions from the FTC, the BL&P must compensate each affected customer with a credit on their electricity bill within two months of breaches on the guaranteed standards.

To effect the new rules of engagement with customers, BL&P has been ordered to issue tracking numbers to each customer reporting a fault or complaint. The customer can then use that tracking number to follow up the progress on the issue.

The BWA, BL&P and C&W, the sole supplier of landline services through FLOW, have just under two months to notify their thousands of customers of the standards and targets which the companies are obligated by order of the quasi-judicial body to meet.

Not only must the companies publicize on their websites the standards and the compensation rates they must pay, they also are mandated to inform customers on their utility bills, and every six months advertise their specific standards and targets in the media.

Among the service standards BL&P’s customers are guaranteed and for which the power company must automatically compensate if it fails to meet, is the restoration of service within eight hours after a power outage.

“The BL&P shall restore the electricity supply within eight hours of a fault being reported on an individual customer’s service. The qualifying fault events include, but are not limited to, problems or defects at the metering point, broken or defective service wires.

“When the BL&P breaches the fault repair target, it shall credit the affected customer’s account $45 (D – domestic), $90 (GS – general service) or $215 (SVP/LP – secondary voltage power/large power). Thereafter, the same level of compensation is applicable for each eight hours the customer remains without service,” the FTC ruled.

The same rate of compensation must be given to customers when they report problems with power surges and dips to their homes or businesses.

BL&P must visit the customer within 24 hours, and it has five days to assess the situation and 30 working days to correct the problem. Failing to do so will mean automatic compensation for the customer within two months on his electricity bill.

When the power company disconnects a customer for non-payment, BL&P must restore the service within six hours after the customer makes the full payment or the power company must refund the reconnection fee.

FLOW’s landline customers have also been offered protection by the FTC. And among the long list of service standards it must maintain is the time to connect customers who request service or want their service transferred to a different residence.

The FTC has given FLOW seven days for such service requests for domestic customers and no more than five days for business clients.

If FLOW fails to meet the standard, it must automatically credit the customer the first month’s service charge. This compensation payment does not require the customer to request the credit.

The state-owned BWA has also been targeted by the FTC. It must acknowledge customer complaints about service standards within seven days of the complaint and 20 days to investigate, or compensate the customer BDS$15 (US$7.50).

If the BWA disconnects a customer in error, it must reconnect within ten hours of the complaint or compensate the domestic customer BDS$50 (US$25), or BDS$100 (US$50) for commercial customers who are disconnected in error. (Barbados Today)

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