A key function of the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) is Consumer Education. URCA recently launched its 2018 Family Island tour
in the southern Bahamas with visits to the islands of Acklins, Crooked
Island and Long Cay.
During the visits, town hall meetings were held in Acklins and Crooked Island providing residents with important information regarding their rights and obligations relating to services in the electronic communications and electricity sectors. URCA’s team also spoke about URCA’s role and the benefits that it delivers to consumers throughout The Bahamas. Residents learnt about recent developments such as number portability and Small Scale Renewable Generation, and the ongoing work in both sectors such as the finalization of the Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Consumer Protection Plan. “The town hall meetings are very valuable”, said Mavis Johnson Collie, Corporate and Consumer Relations Manager, “in that they afford residents an opportunity to express their concerns about any issues related to any of URCA’s licensees and in turn they are apprised of URCA’s Consumer Complaints Handling Procedures”.
“We welcome these opportunities to engage with members of the Bahamian public across the archipelago and to open their eyes as to how URCA can assist them and work on their behalf,” stated Mr. Waldon Russell, acting Director of Electronic Communications at URCA. “For me”, continued Mr. Russell, “I am able to assess the nature and quality of the services provided by service providers first hand”
As URCA’s electricity sector mandate is the “new kid on the block” so to speak, residents were not quite sure what regulation of the electricity sector would mean to them. “We were able to explain why it is important to regulate the sector and what that will look like for them as customers of the electricity service providers. These visits are important for the efficient and effective execution of our work at URCA because what is important to a community can vary greatly as you go from settlement to settlement and island to island,” said Mr. Mark Hudson, Regulatory Manager, Technical at URCA.
Complaints about services within the Electronic Communications Sector concerned:
• inability to access a mandated minimal 5 channel PayTV Package;
• the unavailability of the ‘six free to air TV channels’ which is a legacy package negotiated by Government and multiple service providers;
• slow internet speed;
• lack of service on long stretches of roadways connecting settlements and
• billing for services not received.
Complaints about services in the Electricity and Energy Sector concerned:
• High bills;
• Lack of street lights in Lovely Bay and Pinefields;
• Insufficient location at which to pay for services
URCA’s team will follow-up with service providers and will make all attempts to have the issues resolved.
In addition to the town hall meetings, URCA’s team also took the opportunity to do walkabouts in local communities on Acklins and Long Cay, as well as make presentations to the High Schools on Crooked Island and Acklins. This allowed them to not only reach more members of the community but also to see firsthand the licensees’ local operations and locations.
URCA will continue its consumer education tours in the southern Bahamas with visits to Inagua and Long Island scheduled for late October 2018.