–over 500 received by PUC in 2020
THE Public Utilities Commission (PUC) received 546 complaints in 2020 against the four utility companies it monitors, and more than half of them were related to the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT).
A total of 363 complaints were lodged by consumers in 2020 against GTT, just two less than those made against it in 2019. Comparatively, the PUC had received a total of 715 complaints in 2019. In terms of the other utility companies, for 2020, there were 122 complaints against the Guyana Power and Light (GPL); 56 against the Guyana Water Inc. (GWI); and three against Guyana’s other telecommunications company, Digicel.
Comparatively, GPL had 262 complaints lodged against it in 2019, while there were 86 against GWI and four against Digicel in 2019.
During an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Wednesday, PUC Complaints Manager, Destra Bourne, explained that the majority of the issues against GTT were technical in nature, while the majority against GWI and GPL had to do with billing.
“Majority of those technical issues would have been for application for service and billing queries,” Bourne said, adding: “What we found is that persons were applying, but due to the COVID-19 situation, the utilities had to reassess application for services.”
She said too, “Majority of the complaints we would have received from GPL were billing inquiries, where consumers were not clear about billing. For GWI, majority would have been for billing queries also.”
She noted that due to the COVID-19 epidemic, which existed throughout most of 2020, the work of some of the utility companies was delayed, and so they were constrained in their ability to look into some of the complaints being made.
“There are some cases that would require an investigation to ensure that the instrument is operating properly,” Bourne said, adding: “During the period with COVID, utilities had to take a step back and assess how they go out to do the investigations and interact with persons, so that their staff would be protected. But we have worked with them to get these matters resolved in a timely manner.”
She also noted that while some of the matters were still unresolved as at the end of the year, a lot of that was due to the complaints having been recently received and investigations were still being done when the year concluded.
“We are working with the utilities to get to the resolution of these matters,” Bourne explained.
Also speaking with the Guyana Chronicle on Wednesday was PUC Chairman, Dela Britton, who explained that though the COVID-19 situation did not largely affect the Commission’s ability to function, it did affect some customers’ ability to report issues.
Britton noted that this was largely due to the Commission having to ask consumers to make their reports via virtual means, which would have affected those who do not have access to such medium.
“Nothing really affects the work at PUC, because we operate on a virtual private network, and we were able to move seamlessly to working from home, in order to protect our staff and the public. But we continued to urge the public not to come into the office, but to utilise our website portal, as was feasible,” Britton explained.
“But we always have challenges, and for us, it was not being able to serve them as we would have liked to because of the situation,” she added.