Freeport, GB, Bahamas – As the independent regulator for the country’s electricity and electronic communication sectors, the Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority (URCA) is committed to addressing the needs of Bahamians across the entire country. In that vein, URCA’s executives traveled back to Grand Bahama last week for their first series of meetings, post-Hurricane Dorian.  “We must ensure that residents throughout the country feel connected to URCA and understand our role,” URCA Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Bereaux, reiterated during his visit. “In particular, we want residents and business persons here, the everyday consumers, to know that we are here to protect their interests and regulate services they are paying for.”

Partnering with the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, URCA spent two days hosting general “Pop-Up” office meetings in Freeport, with executives making themselves available for one on one meetings.  Over the three day period, URCA representatives also used the opportunity to speak with focus groups and garner feedback from them. “We made it part of our 2019 plans to visit Grand Bahama on a more regular basis,” explained URCA’s Corporate and Consumer Relations Manager, Mavis Johnson-Collie.  “Residents in Nassau have much more knowledge about what we do and much more access to our services. On this visit, we chose to engage with Teachers, Business Persons, Church leaders, Civic Organizations and moms – speaking to them in detail about what we do – and most importantly our role to protect consumers all over The Bahamas.”

At all of the meetings and group discussions, Consumer Relations Rep, Collie took the time to explain the process of making a complaint to URCA, which is as easy as making a phone call or going to their website to fill in a form.  “I had not realized URCA was there to support me, a regular consumer,” said one participant. “It’s nice to know that I don’t have to accept unrealistic timelines on repairs, transfers or proper bill adjustments. I am very happy to learn that we all have a course of redress to depend on when our concerns are not resolved.” 

The three-day focus group sessions allowed for the URCA executives to hear from a wide range of local consumers. “Last year we celebrated 10 years as a regulator,” said the CEO, “over the years we have been very successful in resolving grievances with service providers on behalf of consumers. We have a 95% success rate of resolving issues and complaints, all we need is the public to reach out to us when there are issues that need addressing. Our trip here was very successful, some of the concerns we heard were unique to Grand Bahama and others very similar to issues raised by residents in New Providence. My team and I learned much about key issues facing residents in Freeport, we are aware that we must step up our outreach efforts and focus heavily on educating our consumers.  We do plan to continue our visits until we establish a full-time office here to protect all consumers. Our intent is to create a stronger URCA presence in 2020.” 

The URCA team had previously planned to host a series of monthly “Pop-Ups” from September through December, however, those plans were derailed by the arrival of Hurricane Dorian. “Due to the storm impact, we canceled our events,” noted Bereaux. “I am very pleased to have made the call to visit before the end of the year, as we have heard lots of good and some not so good news in regards to the level of customer services on the island. Some of the issues raised can be immediately addressed, but others will require consumers to make official complaints to us along with proof of their claims. ”

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