Mon | Feb 18, 2019

OUR: Utility companies fail to meet standards to notify customers of planned outages

Published:Friday | January 18, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Entrance to National Water Commission complex on Maurescaux Road, Kingston.
"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" - OUR
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The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) says that the country’s water and power providers ­ the National Water Commission (NWC) and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), respectively ­ are failing to meet standards for notifying their customers of planned service disruptions.

As part of their agreed Quality of Service Standards, both utility companies are required to submit reports to the OUR in relation to their performance.

Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, public education specialist at the OUR, noted that 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 2018 July - September period, which is available on its website.

The report details that one of the JPS’ overall standards requires it to notify customers at least 48 hours, or two days, 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,” read statistics drawn from the report.

Marsh said that the JPS had advised that it was yet to implement measures to ensure that its compliance rating improved.

According to the report, the NWC 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,” said the report.

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 were received for any notification to customers for planned service interruptions lasting less than four hours.

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

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

... Customers get over $37 million for breaches

The Office of Utilities Regulation’s (OUR) latest Quarterly Performance Report (QPR) for the 2018 July - September period revealed that utility customers have benefited 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).

Approximately 17,634 breaches were committed, representing a three per cent decline compared to the preceding quarter, resulting in a payout of $34.95 million, which was made through automatic compensation.

Through the intervention of the CAU, $999,261.01 in compensation payment was secured for utility customers.

Of this amount, the National Water Commission accounted for eight per cent, while the Jamaica Public Service and Columbus Communications registered 85 per cent and six per cent, respectively. The remaining one per cent was attributable to Cable and Wireless Jamaica and Digicel.