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Utility Complaints PDF Print

Printed in the "Business Monday" newspaper on October 5, 2009

In recent times, customers have made several complaints on radio talk shows and letters to the press seeking redress from what they perceive to be sub-standard service by utility service providers. Hearing and addressing such feedback from the public is an important function of the Fair Trading Commission (Commission).  

The Fair Trading Commission Act CAP.326B Section 3 (g) and the Utilities Regulation Act CAP.282 Section 3 (b) both state that it is the responsibility of the Commission to:

“hear and determine complaints from consumers regarding billings and standards of service supplied by service providers.”

The Commission has the authority to hear customer complaints about both the Barbados Light and Power Company (BL&P) and the regulated services of Cable & Wireless (Barbados) Ltd. (C&W). The regulated services of C&W consist of domestic voice, international telecommunications services, supply of international simple resale, supply of leased circuits and the supply of services in respect of interconnection charges. The Commission does not regulate the other telecommunications services such as mobile and internet. Nor does it regulate natural gas and water. As a consequence we cannot hear customer complaints in respect of these services.

When a consumer makes a complaint, the Commission always encourages them to seek resolution from the service provider in question before involving the Commission. The legislation requires that the service provider first be allowed the opportunity to address the situation. Normally the Commission requests that the customer give the service provider 14 days to respond. Only when this process has failed to satisfy the complainant should he or she then turn to the Commission.

In order to make a complaint, customers should bring with them all relevant information concerning the matter including recently paid bills, their letter to the company and the names of the persons they were in contact with as proof of their attempt to resolve the matter. The Commission’s staff will discuss the matter with the customer in order to verify that there was no misunderstanding on their part relating to the complaint as well as to gather as much of the facts as possible. Although customers are normally required to complete a complaint form which gives an account of circumstances which led to the compliant, they may also write a letter to the Commission specifying the details of the complaint in lieu of filing the complaint form. Customers are reminded that if they engage the services of a lawyer it precludes the FTC from assisting them.

Resolution of Complaint at Staff Level

Upon receipt of information to substantiate the claim, the Commission staff will seek to obtain a response to the complaint from the relevant service provider. Within seven days of receipt of the complaint the Commission will send correspondence to the service provider. This correspondence may include a request for:

  • specific information which could assist with investigation of the complaint
  • a response to the customer’s claims
  • a copy of the customer’s complaint and supporting information

The Commission will generally give the Service Provider 14 days to submit its response. In the event that a response is not received within this timeframe follow-up action is taken by telephone and/or letter.

All information obtained is objectively evaluated and analysed and during the course of its investigations staff may contact the service provider for additional information.

The analysis determines whether the circumstances of the complaint indicate that the service provider has breached any of the provisions of the Utilities Regulation Act CAP.282, Fair Trading Commission Act CAP.326B, the relevant provisions of the Telecommunications Act CAP.282B or any other legislation under the responsibility of the Fair Trading Commission. The nature of the matter being considered may require that a meeting be convened between both parties or follow-up information may be requested.

After investigations are completed staff may conclude that:

  • the service provider is at fault and that specific action is required to remedy the situation; or
  • the consumer should close the matter as the investigation has revealed that the service provider acted appropriately.

Resolution of Complaint at Commission level

A complaint may sometimes be referred to a Commission Panel for resolution in the following circumstances:

  1. Refusal of the service provider to respond in the manner suggested by Commission staff;
  2. Given the complex matter of the issues involved there is need to seek a Commission decision; or
  3. Commission approval is required for a recommended action.

In cases where the Commission is required to adjudicate the relevant utility panel may determine the matter by written hearing or require an oral hearing with both parties (service provider and complainant) present.

The Commission is conscious of the importance of resolving consumer complaints in a timely manner. The Commission’s response times are monitored and logged for each complaint to ensure they meet the Commission’s quality of service standard.

If you have any questions email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call us at 424-0260. We can also be contacted at our offices at ‘Good Hope’, Green Hill, St. Michael.

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