Sun | Jul 21, 2019

JPS accounts for lion’s share of payout for utility breaches - OUR secures $39m for aggrieved consumers in first quarter

Published:Saturday | July 13, 2019 | 12:19 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is reporting that more than $39 million was paid out to consumers by utility providers in the first quarter of 2019 for service breaches of guaranteed standards.

According to the OUR’s performance report for the first three months of this year, $39,409,921.36 was paid out to utility customers.

The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) compliance report on its guaranteed standards performance indicated that 17,910 breaches were committed, representing a four per cent increase compared to the preceding quarter.

As a result, the power company forked out compensatory payments of approximately $37.31 million, which were made through automatic compensation.

Estimated bills accounted for approximately 93 per cent of compensatory payments.

Audrey Williams, media and public relations manager at the JPS, told The Gleaner that given that the company has a base of roughly 660,000 customers, the number of breaches represents a very small percentage of its customers. However, she said that the company was trying to address all concerns.

“We note that breaches have actually been trending down – (July – Sept 2018: 17,634; Oct – Dec 2018: 17,240; and Jan – Mar 2019: 17,910) – so we were disappointed by the upturn in the most recently reported quarter. However, this was as a result of communication issues experienced with the RAMI (Residential Advanced Metering Infrastructure) meter in some of our more challenging communities,” Williams said.

Guaranteed standard restricts the JPS from sending more than two consecutive estimates without attracting a penalty.

530 NWC BREACHES

When contacted, Charles Buchanan, the communications manager at the National Water Commission (NWC), told The Gleaner that he had not yet reviewed the specifics of the report and was unable to comment on the 530 breaches reported.

The figure represented a 12 per cent decrease when compared with the NWC’s breaches in the preceding quarter.

These breaches had a potential payout of approximately $1.84 million. However, actual payments were $1 million and were made via automatic credits.

The remaining unpaid amounts of $840,000 were for breaches requiring claim forms, which were not submitted by customers for validation.

The guaranteed standards with the highest incidents of breaches for the NWC were meter repair/replacement, access, meter reading, and meter installation.

In addition to the payouts for guaranteed standard breaches, the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit secured $1,099,921.36 for utility customers. Of this amount, the JPS, the NWC, FLOW, and the small water provider Can-Cara accounted for 86 per cent, nine per cent, four per cent, and one per cent, respectively.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com