The Energy Regulation Board (ERB), Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ), and National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 8th November 2005 to formalise their regulatory alliance.
Following the signing of the MoU, the three regulators intend to create a National Association of Utility Regulators. The premise for the association is the need to pursue joint efforts in establishing transparent regulatory processes, systems and procedures for effective regulation.
ESTABLISHMENT OF JOINT CONSUMER WATCH GROUPS
In addition, the named regulators have agreed to create joint Consumer Watch groups which will draw legitimacy from the MoU. The proposed groupings are expected to act as the regulatorsÃ¢Ã¢Ã¢ link between consumers and utilities and develop into an important outreach tool in the long term. Rather than reinvent the wheel by creating sector specific watch groups, the existing Water Watch Group structures created by NWASCO will be strengthened and transformed into joint watch groups.
The first joint sector consumer watch group will be launched in Lusaka before the programme is rolled out to other parts of the country. Volunteers to serve on the watch groups are required to possess the following qualifications:
- Aged 21 or above
- Consumers of Telecommunications services such as fixed line, mobile phone, internet service, Energy services such as kerosene, fuel, electricity and Water services.
- Willing to work on a voluntary basis.
- No criminal record.
- Willing to undergo training in the operations of Watch Groups
- General knowledge of Energy, Telecommunications and Water issues are an added advantage.
WHY CONSUMER WATCH GROUPS?
The watch groups will be an important contact point to channel consumer complaints (particularly unresolved complaints), queries and other concerns pertaining to the quality of services or goods, for consumers in different parts of the country. In addition, the watch groups will help monitor the performance of service providers and follow up consumer concerns on the quality of service. However, consumers will be encouraged to report their complaints to the respective utilities first and give these companies an opportunity to resolve the complaints and only revert to the watch groups if the matters remain unresolved.
Through this avenue, the regulators will equally educate consumers about their rights and obligations. The watch groups will in the long term provide an effective check on the quality of service delivery and regular feedback from consumers. Through the consumer watch groups, the regulators expect to receive valuable feedback from the consumers on the publicÃ¢Ã¢Ã¢s expectations.
This feedback from consumers will be analysed and when ever relevant, be utilised during the review of any guidelines and regulations with the view of according consumers an opportunity to play a role in the regulatory process. The regulatory bodies will also be better-placed to expeditiously address pertinent issues arising from the watch groupsÃ¢Ã¢Ã¢ constant liaison with residents of a given locality.