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URCA seeks to shorten reconnection time

By Rashad Rolle

Tribune News Editor

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority wants to shorten the time communications service providers have to reconnect the services of people who are wrongfully disconnected or were disconnected because of non-payment.

The regulator also wants to reduce the number of days providers have to resolve consumer complaints from 30 to 20, finding the current 30-day requirement too lengthy.

These and other proposed changes are part of URCA's consultation document featuring the authority’s proposed revisions to the Consumer Protection Regulations, which were last revised in 2014.

URCA also released its revised draft sector policy for the electronic communications sector (ECS) on Friday. The 46-page document reflects the government’s vision and aims for 2023 to 2025.

In cases where people are wrongfully disconnected because of system errors, URCA would require service providers to restore services within two working hours, down from four.

Those seeking reconnection after being disconnected for non-payment would have to be reconnected within four working hours, down from eight.

URCA would also require providers to be more upfront and honest about the limits of their “unlimited” services, requiring they disclose all limitations and restrictions that apply to such services on the web pages where the claim is made.

“Consumers have complained to URCA that claims of a service being ‘unlimited’ were misleading and the consumers were not always made aware of a limit and/or restriction,” URCA said. “As such, this revision is to reinforce that consumers must be made fully aware of all aspects of a service, and such information must be prominently placed on the service provider’s website.”

Under the proposed revisions, service providers would be required to give customers at least 48 hours advanced notice of planned disruptions and outages, including the estimated duration of the interruption and the areas that will be affected.

When unplanned outages or disruptions take place, the provider would be required to inform affected customers.

“A service provider shall restore service to customers affected by disruptions or outages, whether planned or unplanned, within the shortest possible time having regard to the circumstances,” URCA said. “Should restoration be delayed beyond two hours, the service provider will provide updates every two hours.”

Providers in such cases would be required to notify customers about the disruptions and outages through at least three mainstream communication channels accessible by many people, such as emails, SMS, or publication on the provider’s website and social media platforms.

URCA also wants providers to give customers an opt-out option related to text messages containing advertisements.

“The consumer shall not be charged for using the opt-out option,” URCA said. “In addition to the opt-out option via text message, a consumer may also opt-out by calling or emailing the service provider.

“Once the consumer has opted out of receiving text messages containing advertisements by any of the methods in Part 4.7.1, the service provider must stop sending text messages containing advertisements to the consumer.

“Consumers regularly complain to URCA about receiving unsolicited text messages from service providers."