Consumer rights advocate Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt has welcomed a move by the Fair Trading Commission to impose stricter service standards on the three utility service providers.
While singling out the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) for reprimand, Director-General of the Barbados Consumers Research Organization (BCRO) Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt today suggested that the state-run utility should be subjected to even tougher penalties than what the FTC was currently proposing.
“For example, when a customer doesn’t receive water for a protracted period of time, that customer should not have to pay,” said Gibbs-Taitt, while emphasizing that “if you are not receiving the commodity, why should you be paying?”
He was responding to tough new service standards which the FTC is proposing to implement effective January 1, 2018 for the BWA, as well as the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) and Cable & Wireless (C&W), which operates here as FLOW.
Failure by any of these three utilities to follow the rules could result in hefty fines of up to $100,000 on conviction.
In response to the FTC’s move, Cable & Wireless Barbados said today it had reviewed the Commission’s proposed standards of service and was satisfied for the most part that they were consistent with reasonable industry standards.
However, the former monopoly telecommunications provider complained that “the application of these standards to only Cable & Wireless Barbados in the context of a highly competitive telecommunications market is anachronistic and inconsistent with the ideal of a level playing field in the industry”.
BL&P’s Manager of Communications and Government Relations Jackie Marshall-Clarke also said today the company was currently reviewing the new service standards to determine their cost and the operating implications.
“But of course, we remain committed to making the operating changes that may be necessary to ensure that we continue to provide the service that is safe and reliable and that certainly meets the expectations of all our customers,” Marshall-Clarke added.
The BWA is yet to respond publicly to the proposals.
In the meantime, Gibbs-Taitt is threatening to take the FTC to court for failing to enforce the Consumer Protection Act, despite persistent written complaints made by him.
“I am in the process of taking the FTC to court for failing to acknowledge my letters and to deal with the matters I sent to them,” Gibbs-Taitt said, adding that he was being advised by a “highly-skilled” lawyer, who he declined to name.
Asked to expand on the grounds of the pending suit, the consumer advocate said he was seeking to get the court to declare that the FTC must follow the requisite legislation in cases where companies had been found to be in breach of the Act.
“To me, the answer is quite simple. You call the parties together and explain what they are doing wrong for so long and ask them to cease,” Gibbs-Taitt said, while adding that he was giving the consumer protection body one more chance to do the right thing.