Customer Welfare Criteria
The Authority for Electricity Regulation, Oman (‘the Authority”) is the Authority established by Royal Decree 78/2004 to regulate the electricity and related water sector in Oman. The Authority has a range of statutory obligations including an obligation to protect the interests of electricity customers, and in particular customers who have limited income, the sick, the elderly and customers living in rural areas.
Article (22) of the Sector Law, requires the Authority to prepare and publish customer welfare criteria setting out how the Authority proposes to ensure;
The interests of customers are afforded appropriate priority in the Authority's decisions
Customer services will be provided in accordance with required standards
This document fulfills the Authority's Article (22) obligation.
The Authority is committed to safeguarding customer interests and has established a Customer Affairs Directorate staffed with full time professionals to ensure customer service regulations are properly implemented by electricity Suppliers. The Director of Customer Affairs reports to the Executive Director of the Authority. This ensures customer issues can be raised and discussed at the very highest level within the Authority.
In carrying out our functions the Authority has regard to governance principles that require Authority decisions to be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed. The Authority is required to explain and justify its decisions and will seek to act at all times in accordance with good regulatory practice. The Authority will from time to time, consult directly with customers to facilitate input to the development of policies that directly affect customer service standards and the obligations of electricity Suppliers.
In line with the Authority’s statutory obligations, certain requirements have been placed on electricity Suppliers to provide important customer protections, including;
A dispute resolution mechanism to ensure customers can pursue complaints against electricity Suppliers
Safeguards to protect vulnerable customers from disconnection
|•||Procedures to help customers with significant billing areas|
|•||A requirement to provide information to enable customers to use electricity efficiently|
|•||Specification of minimum standards of service|
|•||Policies to promote the safety and security of electricity supplies|
The Authority has included these requirements in the conditions of Distribution and Supply Licensees in the form of Codes of Practice. Ensuring licensees comply with these conditions will be important to improving customer welfare.
2. Customer Complaints Handling Procedures
One of the Authority's principal functions is to ensure customers recieve appropriate standards of service from electricity Suppliers and help resolve problems or complaints customers might have about their electricity supply. Our focus is on translating complaints and enquiries into decisive action to improve the performance of electricity Suppliers.
The Authority has approved a Complaints Handling Procedure ‘the Procedure' that requires electricity Suppliers to effectively and transparently resolve customer complaints in a timely manner. The Procedure provides a clear and understandable process for customers to use when experiencing difficulties with their electricity supply;
The Procedure specifies the periods within which different categories of complaints should be processed and resolved
Any customer that is not satisfied with the way their Supplier proposes to resolve a compliant may refer the matter to the Authority for determination
3. Customers With Special Needs Code of Practice
Suppliers are required to prepare a Customers With Special Needs Code of Practice outlining arrangements by which special services for customers who are disabled, chronically sick, have limited income or of pensionable age, can be made available, where appropriate. Examples of how Suppliers can respond to the special needs of customers include:
Providing where practicable special controls and adaptors for electrical appliances and meters (including prepayment meters) and repositioning meters
Providing special means of identifying officers authorized by the electricity Supplier
|•||Giving advice on the use of electricity and actions to be taken during supply interruptions|
|•||Arrangements to restrict the disconnection of customers with special needs|
|•||The implementation of a register of customers with special needs|
4. Customer Late Payment Code of Practice
Suppliers are required to prepare a Code of Practice setting out ways of assisting customers who incur obligations to pay for electricity supplied and who have difficulty in discharging those obligations.
Because of the inconvenience disconnection can cause customers, Suppliers must put in place a process to be followed in advance of any request to disconnect a customer. This process would include contacting the customer to inform them they are in arrears (by telephone and/or in writing), providing information on any repayment options and notification of fees for disconnection and reconnection. Suppliers should also ensure that cases of financial hardship are handled sensitively.
Suppliers must facilitate payment option/plans for customers experiencing genuine financial hardship. Suppliers are not required to offer this as a standard service to all customers.
5. Efficient Use of Electricity Code of Practice
Suppliers are required to prepare an Efficient Use of Electricity Code of Practice to provide customers with guidance on how to use electricity efficiently and reduce electricity bills.
The Code should provide customers with details of:
Information and advice, given or prepared by a suitably qualified person where practicable, on the efficient use of electricity. This should include specific examples of the steps which customers can take to improve the efficient use of electricity, and the relative costs, lifetimes and energy savings of different measures, such as energy efficient appliances and low energy lighting.
Arrangements, including a telephone information service, for customers to obtain further information.
6. Guaranteed and Overall Standards of Performance
The Authority considers it important to set minimum standards of service with which Suppliers should comply. In some cases the Authority will stipulate guaranteed standards of service and will require Suppliers to compensate customers if service standards fall below the guaranteed level. These guarantees are an indication of a Supplier’s commitment to customer service. Suppliers are required by the Authority to prepare approved performance schemes which shall:
Set out the guaranteed and overall standards of performance to which the Supplier is required to adhere from time to time
Specify the financial compensation the Supplier shall make to customers in the event that the guaranteed standards of performance are not complied with
7. Health and Safety Policy
Customers have a right to expect electricity Suppliers to conduct their activities in a safe and secure manner. Suppliers are required to establish a written health and safety policy setting out how they propose to safeguard the health and safety of its staff, and customers, when supplying electricity.
8. Rural Customers
The Authority has a duty to protect the interests of rural customers and ensure the continuation of the government's policy of rural area electrification. The Authority has developed criteria to ensure Rural Areas Electricity Company (SAOC) requests for electrification funding can be processed quickly and efficiently so as to secure funding in accordance with statutory requirements.