FTC reports on service quality at C&W and BL&P
Two of the island’s main utility companies have been given a passing grade for their overall service to Barbadians during the past 12 months.
But while the state-owned Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) latest assessment of Cable & Wireless (Barbados) Limited’s (C&W), which now operates as Flow, and the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited’s (BL&P) standards of service were found to be generally satisfactory, the FTC identified some areas of concern it planned to address in the coming year.
In its just-released annual report for April 2015 to March 2016 that examined the Guaranteed and Overall Standards of Service, the Commission concluded that BL&P “generally performed well” and as such, offered a reasonably good level of service.
“However, it must be noted that the relatively weaker areas continue to be the frequency [infrequency] of meter reading and the answering of billing and trouble calls,” the regulatory body said in a ten-page report.
The FTC recommended to the power company that more attention should be paid to those areas, noting that they were strong indicators of the overall level of service provided to customers.
In fact, the fair competition body revealed that all customer classes reported breaches of the prescribed Frequency of Meter Reading standard (OEC1), which requires that 100 per cent of meters in domestic and general service classes should be read every two months. In both categories there was only an average 97 per cent compliance.
“This breach has implications for both the residential and commercial customer, with the latter of particular concern as the resulting estimated bills, which are generated when scheduled readings are missed, are more likely to be inaccurate and thus have the potential to impact cash flow,” the FTC reported.
The report also expressed concern about the 73 per cent compliance in the timeliness of answering billing and trouble calls, when the required standard demands that 85 per cent of such calls must be answered within one minute.
It noted that while there was no local established target for measuring the overall reliability of electricity service provided by the BL&P, a series of comparable values with international jurisdictions indicated a slight improvement for Barbados.
It said that measures of reliability were generally satisfactory, but when compared with some established international jurisdictions, better needed to be done when it came to the number of service interruptions per customer each year. The FTC promised to closely monitor this over the next reporting period.
The utility regulatory agency also said there was a need for a better performance by the electricity company in settling claims. It noted that 56.75 of eligible customers actually received compensation.
“The efficiency with which claims are substantiated and then paid, is also in need of some improvement,” the Government agency suggested.
With respect to Cable & Wireless, the regulatory body found the telecommunication company’s performance was generally satisfactory, even though it was unable to supply information on all six of the overall standards.
It said that while information was received for only four standards, this still resulted in a performance that surpassed the acceptable minimum.
“This bodes well for the overall efficiency of the company at a national level,” the FTC stated.
Making it clear that the the standards of service applied only to C&W’s regulated residential and business landline services, the Commission disclosed that the utility company experienced challenges meeting the expected performance levels for the Approval for Application of Service Standards (GTS1A), due to an oversight.
“The Fault Repair Standard (GTS2) achieved an acceptable level of compliance [84.72 per cent] for the business segment, while residential compliance of 76.38 per cent was adequate, but indicates some room for improvement,” the FTC reported.
It also found that scheduled appointments pertaining to visits by C&W representatives to correct a fault also left something to be desired. The FTC said the company performed below expectations for residential customers, but satisfactory for businesses.
“The Commission will be addressing all matters of weak areas with C&W, with the expectation of a significant improvement next year, especially as it relates to areas affecting the residential customer,” it said in the 12-page report.