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Consumer parliament: will it make a difference?

Dec 11, 2014, 10:21 AM

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has recently brought together consumers of products and services such as communications, electricity and water face-to-face with providers of such services to express their views, concerns and complaints to them.

It was another edition of the Consumer Parliament, one of the mechanisms that PURA uses to facilitate dialogue and clarification between service providers and consumers.

It was meant to help PURA address consumers’ concerns and challenges on the sectors it regulates.

PURA is mandated to regulate the public services such as communications, electricity, water and sewerage, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Netpage and Unique Solutions.

At this year’s Consumer Parliament, all the PURA-regulated sectors received their fair share of the complaints.

For instance, consumers complained about NAWEC’s inability to adequately supply water in places like Tallinding and Bundung.

Others lamented the burst water pipes of NAWEC that causes flooding their areas.

NAWEC, the national electricity and water provider, also received complaints of unreliable electricity supply and the high cost of its tariff.Some consumers complained of high voltage while others of low voltage.

Almost all the GSM companies received complaints of a poor network.Some complained that the tariffs of these operators are very high as phone credits no longer last any more.

Some consumers also complained that the megabytes of internet service providers, as well as those GSMs that provide internet services are very fast; that it finishes quickly.

Generally, the basis of most of the complaints at the Consumer Parliament was low quality services or the unaffordability of services.

For that reason, PURA should be seen to be ensuring that services are delivered on the basis of quality and affordability.

A very important part of PURA’s work is to ensure that consumers get value for money, and in line with that they are legally mandated to protect the interest of consumers of the services PURA regulates.

Therefore, if the Consumer Parliament is to worth its purpose, PURA needs to make some tough, but equitable decisions not always acceptable by those regulated, but necessary to ensure a level playing field.

Otherwise, the Consumer Parliament will just be another talk-shop where the concerns of the consumers will only be noted and unnoted, leaving implementation in the cold.

“Competition is not only the basis ofprotection to the consumer, but is theincentive to progress.”

Herbert Hoover