By Myrna M. Velasco
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Department of Energy (DOE) have firmed up a covenant that will enhance ‘consumer protection’ measures in the liberalized electricity sector.
The pact between the two agencies had been via a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which targets to reinforce the consumer welfare desks (CWDs) primarily those relating to the business affairs of distribution utilities (DUs), the sub-segment of the power sector that has been front-lining for services to the end-consumers.
According to the regulatory body, its agreement with the DOE will advance consumer-centric culture in the industry – and such then will call for prompt, reliable and cost-effective delivery of services.
The accepted fiat in the marketplace is for customers being “always right”, but despite such precept, consumers in the energy sector still find themselves in the tail-end of decision making of their servicing DUs if they lodge a complaint against lousy services.
But in the newly sealed agreement between the two key agencies of the sector, ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera indicated that such “formalizes and seals our collaboration towards promotion and protection of consumer interest.”
To strengthen systems in addressing consumer concerns and/or complaints, the two agencies have mutually agreed on parameters that they shall be working on to achieve such goal.
Chiefly, the DOE through its Consumer Welfare and Promotion Office (CWPO) and the ERC’s Consumer Affairs Service (CAS) had indicated to jointly carry out data and information sharing to improve consumer services; as well as undertake consumer behavior survey, studies and other key researches to understand the needs of the sector’s end-users.
In addition, the two agencies shall strive for the modernization and improvements in their systems – to include securing International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification for consumer complaints handling processes; and they must also undergo training and development to enhance the capabilities of their respective consumer welfare desks.
Further, the ERC and DOE must aim for technological and best practices exchanges primarily on the sphere of consumer protection; and they must also come up with policy recommendations “to ensure proper implementation of projects and activities on consumer welfare.”
It has likewise been prescribed that there should be monitoring and evaluation systems in their ‘to-do-list’ under the MOU so they can track measurable targets and improvements.