It is expected that consumers of the services of the regulated public utilities will lodge complaints against such utilities on matters of service quality, delivery process, billing and any other related matter.
As a growing sector, utilities have on same occasions been responding commendably to complaints, but the general view is that consumer concerns and complaints are neither promptly nor adequately dealt with.
In order to obviate the problem, and in the discharge of its statutory responsibilities, the RURA has issued regulations for the submission, hearing and determination of matters arising from such dissatisfactions and complaints. This Complaint procedure is an inherent part of such regulations.
How to complain
Any person who has an issue against a public utility in terms of service provision may complain to RURA for redress. Notwithstanding this, consumers are encouraged to complain directly to the Utility in the first instance. However, where a complaint made directly to a utility is in the opinion of the person complaining not satisfactorily dealt with, such may be redirected to RURA.
Filing of complaints with RURA is governed by the following rules;
1. A complaint to the regulator may be written or oral.
2. A written complaint must be addressed to RURA.
3. Where an oral complaint is made or where the complainant cannot read or write, the complaint will be put into writing by an officer of RURA who has the authority to receive complaints. The complainant may also select a person of his choice to write down the complaint for him or her.
4. Where the complaint is written down by a person other than the complainant, it will be read over and explained to the complainant in a language that he or she understands, and there will be a declaration to that effect on the complaint.
5. The complainant must indicate that he or she understands what has been read over and explained before appending his or her signature or thumb print to the written complaint.
6. The available RURA hotlines is: 3988.
A complaint lodged with the Agency must contain the following:
1. The full name, contact address of the complaint.
2. The utility or person against whom the complaint is made.
3. Particulars of the nature of the complaint together with copies of any document in support of or in relation to the complaint.
4. The nature of the dissatisfaction, or the alleged harm that the complainant has suffered as a result of the action, inaction or omission of the person or utility against whom the complaint is made.
5. The relief sought by the complainant.
6. Any other matter relevant to the complaint.
7. Where the person who lodges a complaint is acting on behalf of another person, company or organization, he or she must state in writing the name and contact address of the company he or she is acting for and the reason for doing so.
8. The above conditions are just the basic required information but the non-availability of some must not prevent any person or authority from lodging complaints.
How does RURA respond to a complaint?
RURA does the following in handling a complaint;
1. Once a complaint is received, RURA forwards a copy of the complaint to the utility providing the service, which must respond to RURA within five days.
2. The above act is done with care by RURA and that can use other means to get to the service provider where in the opinion of RURA the complainant can suffer possible negative consequences should the concerned utility be directly told the real source of the complaint.
3. RURA thereafter conducts a preliminary inquiry into the complaint. If the complaint in question can be resolved by mediation and or settlement, it may invite officials of the concerned utility company and the complainant for a resolution of the complaint.
4. If the parties fail to reach an agreement then RURA will conduct a formal hearing
5. where both parties will be given the opportunity to state their case before a panel of at least three persons representing RURA.
6. A person appearing before RURA’s panel may conduct his own case or be represented by legal counsel or other expert.
7. At the conclusion of the formal “hearing” the three-person panel will submit a full report with recommendations to RURA’s Director General on the decision of the panel.
8. Any person or authority dissatisfied with the decision of RURA may go to court for the redress of the matter.
In conclusion, it is the expectation of RURA that the concerned utilities will improve efficiency by creating internal dispute resolution mechanisms to lessen the number of dispute that will necessitate RURA’s formal hearings. RURA would like to enjoin both the utilities and customers to work with the Agency as partners in the implementation of these Regulations.