URCA publishes new consumer protection regulation

6 Jan 2014

Bahamian telecoms watchdog the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has published its final Consumer Protection Regulations for the Electronic Communications Sector (ECS), ECS 19/2013, which was enacted on 30 December 2013. According to a press release, the draft document was released for public consultation in June 2013; the regulator also announced that feedback from Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Cable Bahamas Ltd (CBL), and comments received at public meetings were also taken into consideration when drafting the final regulation.

Following the publication of the document, both BTC and CBL have asserted that the regulations are too ‘prescriptive’, with CBL pointing out that the six-month period given to service providers to comply with the new legislation was ‘unrealistically short’. CBL indicated that it would require at least 18 months to implement the regulations in order to allow for a reasonable amount of time to introduce changes to its billing system and associated staff training; the collection of increased security deposits from existing customers to correspond with the new process for the handling of unpaid bills; the implementation of new system processes and staff practices arising from the customer Quality of Service (QoS) standards; and the implementation of customer complaint and QoS monitoring and reporting requirements. However, the URCA has pointed out that extending the deadline ‘would pose an unreasonable disadvantage to consumers, who should have the security of knowing that URCA has implemented specific measures protecting the rights of consumers when contracting with licensees for the provision of electronic communications services and implementing complaint handling and dispute resolution procedures’.

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