OUR blasts utilities

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THE Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) said yesterday that the country’s major water and energy service providers are not meeting standards for notifying their customers of planned service disruptions, and has given them until January 25 to provide reasons for the failure.

In a statement to the media, the OUR said 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 OUR on their performance, adding that one such report relates to their performance in notifying customers within a specified timeline about planned outages.

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

Said the OUR: “One of the JPS’ overall standards requires it to notify customers at least 48 hours ahead of planned outages. For the 2018 July – September period, JPS reported a 47.7 per cent compliance rating in meeting this standard, way below the agreed 100 per cent compliance target. This is a 6.1-percentage point decline over the preceding period.”

According to the OUR, the JPS advised that it is yet to implement measures to ensure that its compliance rating improves.

Where the NWC is concerned, the OUR said its 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 advance notice of at least 24 hours, at a 90 per cent compliance rate.

“Based on the information 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. No data was received for any notification to customers for planned service interruptions lasting less than four hours,” the release said.

The OUR said it has written to the JPS and 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.

In the meantime, the OUR quarterly report also revealed that the utility customers benefited from payouts of more than $37 million for breaches of the guaranteed standards as well as credits and compensation secured for them by its Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU).

The JPS compliance report on its guaranteed standards’ performance, said the OUR, indicated that 17,634 breaches were committed, representing a three per cent decline, compared 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,” said the OUR.

It said the NWC’s compliance report on the guaranteed standards scheme showed there were 550 breaches, representing a 13 per cent decrease over the last quarter. These breaches, it noted, 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.

Said the OUR: “The standards with the highest incidence of breaches for the NWC were ‘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 CAU, $999,261.01 in compensation payment was secured for utility customers. Of this, NWC accounted for eight per cent, while the JPS and Columbus Communications (Flow) registered 85 per cent and six per cent, respectively. The remaining one per cent was attributable to C&WJ and Digicel.

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