Tue | Jul 7, 2020

JPS denies fault for shocking light bills

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2020 | 12:11 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter
Winsome Callum, JPS's communications director.
Winsome Callum, JPS's communications director.

DESPITE NATIONAL outrage over complaints of skyrocketing electricity charges, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has denied that its billing system is defective.

The power provider has welcomed Energy Minister Fayval Williams’ call, on Tuesday, for an audit of the utility, saying that findings from its internal investigations have not identified systemic irregularities.

Pressure has grown on the company amid widespread claims of anomalies in power charges, with Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte’s Twitter posts ratcheting up the crescendo.

JPS has itself recorded an overall 28 per cent in bill queries, but said that factors such as depreciation of the Jamaican dollar, rising usage, and fuel costs were among the suite of considerations.

Since the onset of COVID-19 in mid-March, thousands of people have worked from home, with children by their side engaged in online classes. Meters have spun more rapidly.

Overall, electricity usage has fallen by six per cent nationally since the coronavirus crisis, said Winsome Callum, JPS’s director of communication and customer experience.

Residential usage has spiked by 11 per cent between March and April – a trend that remained constant in May, she said.

“However, on the other hand, there was an average reduction of 17 per cent across the board among commercial customers, between March and April, with negligible change in May,” Callum said in an emailed response to queries from The Gleaner.

But the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the industry watchdog, said yesterday that it has launched an investigation into the grouses.

Objections reported to the OUR between April and mid-June have risen from 157 in 2019 to 390 for the comparative period in 2020.

Since the start of the year, the OUR has received a total of 516 complaints, rising 60 per cent from the 320 recorded for the corresponding period in 2019.

Customers have argued that billing spikes have not been caused by increased consumption, the regulator said.

However, JPS has insisted that it cannot adjust its rates without the consent of the OUR.