Despite continuous increases in the prices of utility bills, especially electricity over the years, consumers have often complained without redress about being short-changed by the power distributor-the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).
Finding avenues through which to vent their complaints, have often not been easy, maybe because the consumers have not found a way to organise and mobilise themselves to fight for their rights.
Now that the government has reached an agreement to sell ECG, the timing of forming an advocacy network, couldn’t have been better.
One of the most glaring lacunae in the nation’s power generation and distribution market, is the absence of knowledgeable, credible and broad-based consumer advocacy, as can be found in other jurisdiction.
The voice of the consumer is the least heard of all players in the electricity sector, as they remain at the receiving end of decisions by other more organised stakeholders in the sector.
The voices of the few individual consumers, neighbourhood and resident associations and their levels of engagement, are not enough to hold the electricity suppliers to account and in some cases, those who make up these informal consumer groups do not have the resilience to follow a matter through and see to it that the right thing is done in cases where the rights of consumers are violated.
In most cases, the problem is that those directly affected the lower class; believe that acting individually to sort out personal issues of that nature is the way to go. But we are of the opinion that with adequate sensitisation, the tendency to go solo in a matter that collective action is required, will be overcome and yield more positive result.
The complaints arising from electricity tariff setting, metering and billing by the players, give rise for consumers to be organised to challenge the operators and the regulator, the Public Utility and Regulatory Commission (PURC).
Kofi Kapito’s Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), cannot do it all, as virtually every sector needs an advocacy group that can build technical capability and capacity to effectively challenge other organised interests in the provision of services, for example, the telecommunication sector.
We at The Herald, think it is time consumers spoke with one voice through an advocacy network, which will not only focus on challenging the players on tariff setting and such other commercial activities like metering and billing, it will also step up, as a major contributor, to big debates about the best way to modernise the sector.