A recommendation has been made for the existing law to make it clear that complaints against the Barbados Water Authority over its supply of water, could be deemed a service, and hence be brought before the Consumer Claims Tribunal for redress.
That was just one of seven recommendations submitted this morning by chairman of the Tribunal and Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Jefferson Cumberbatch, while delivering a lecture titled 10 Years of Reformed Consumer Protection – the Role of the Public Counsel, at the government office complex in Warrens.
Cumberbatch suggested an amendment to the Consumer Guarantees Act to make the supply of water a consumer service, a matter he said he had already discussed with the Office of Public Counsel.
“The supply of water is an intriguing consumer issue in Barbados. It is not expressly a service, nor is water expressly a good, under existing legislation. And there was a development in 2009, where the minister by the Utilities Amendment Regulation Order, removed the supply of water from the schedule of utility services, under the Utilities Regulation Act,” noted the newly-appointed member of the Financial Services Commission.
He said the minister assumed the authority to do so under Section 36 of that act.
“However, a close reading of this section, especially Subsection 2 of it, would suggest rather, that the minister is empowered only to add to the list of utility services since he is required under that provision to also list the service providers supplying the designated service, a function that would be impossible if the minister were entitled to remove services from the schedule,” disclosed the chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Authority.
“How can you then designate by removal,” Cumberbatch asked, “if you are supposed to list the service providers supplying the designated service. This would seem to suggest that designation can only mean addition. [But] it is a legal argument that has been done without any protest from the authorities.”
He said that in any event, the supply of water and sewerage facilities may already be treated as the supply of a service under the Consumer Guarantees Act. “There, a service is defined as any rights, benefits, privileges or facilities that are, or are to be provided, granted or conferred by a supplier under any of the