COMPLAINTS AND DISPUTE SETTLEMENT BY THE ENERGY AND WATER UTILITIES REGULATORY AUTHORITY: LAW AND PROCEDURE
- Defining “regulated goods and supplies” under the law
- Procedure for dispute settlement under the law
- Including Enforcement of the award, appellate procedures and limitation of proceedings
Consumers of regulated services in Tanzania such as electricity and water have had many concerns with the services rendered by regulated suppliers. Many complaints are on exorbitant billing, delayed connection and inadequate compensation for damage especially on electricity shorts leading to fire. However, the majority of the population in Tanzania are unaware as to where their complaints against regulated suppliers may be filed.
The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Authority) is vested with authority to determine all complaints and disputes against suppliers of regulated goods or services in relation to any matter connected with the supply, possible supply or proposed supply of goods or services.
The dispute settlement mechanism by the Authority aims at ensuring protection of consumers’ rights, amicable settlement of disputes and an efficient and less bureaucratic dispute settlement procedure.
The research team at Breakthrough Attorneys has found out that there is less public awareness on the dispute settlement procedure by the Authority. This article seeks to highlight the law and procedure relating to settlement of disputes arising from the supply of regulated goods and services.
2.0 Applicable Legislation
2.1 The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority Act, [CAP 414 R.E 2002].
2.2 The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Consumer Complaints Settlement Procedure) Rules,2012.
3.0 What are regulated goods and services?
Regulated goods and services means any goods produced, supplied or offered for supply or for use in a regulated sector and includes any goods the Authority declares under section 40 (Section 3 of the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Act, [CAP 414 R.E 2002] (‘the Act’)). The regulated sector includes electricity, petroleum, natural gas, water and sewerage.
4.0 What is a complaint?
A complaint is defined to mean material facts or act complained by the complainant, in respect of the supply, possible supply or purported supply of the regulated services and specifying the reliefs sought. Any dissatisfaction by consumers of regulated services such as electricity and water may be rightly termed as a complaint. As pointed out above, in Tanzania there enormous complaints by the consumers of water and electricity yet these complaints have not been brought to the attention of the Authority due to limited public awareness and knowledge.
5.0 Procedure for Dispute Settlement
5.1 Investigation and Mediation
(a) Where the complaint is filed with the Authority, it shall first determine whether the complainant has interest in the matter to which the disputed relates and whether the complaint is not frivolous and vexatious. Once the Authority is satisfied with the above, it shall investigate the matter.
(b) During investigation, the Authority may require the supplier to consider or reconsider the complaint within 14 days.
(c) The Authority may make representations to the supplier on behalf of the complainantor to the complainant on behalf of the supplier as the Authority sees fit.
(d) If the supplier does not settle the dispute within 14 days the Authority shall refer the dispute to its particular unit to handle the matter and continue with the investigation.
(e) The Unit shall, as part of investigation, attempt to resolve the complaint in an amicable manner within 60 days from the date of filing of the complaint. This is what is referred to as mediation. The mediator in the process is an officer of the Authority or any other person agreed by the Parties.
5.2 Quasi-Conciliatory Hearing
(a) If no amicable solution is reached within 60 days; the unit dealing with investigation shall, immediately refer the matter to the Division of the Authority for hearing.
(b) The hearing shall be quasi conciliatory in nature. However, where there is no conciliation the Authority shall consider the matter and make a decision thereto.
(c) During hearing, parties are entitled to a right of representation by an advocate or by their principal officers or a duly authorized representative.
5.3 Decision of the Authority
The Authority shall receive recommendation from the Division which entertained the matter and may make a decision with the following orders:
(a) imposing to a guilty party a fine of not less than Tanzanian shillings three million;
(b) requiring a party to supply regulated services on specified terms and conditions;
(c) requiring a party to pay costs of another party or of a person appearing at the hearing or producing documents;(d) dismissing a complaint;
(e) requiring specific performance;
(f) setting up an escrow account;
(g) appointing trustees;
(h) making refunds; and
(i) providing such other relief as may be deemed reasonable and necessary.
6.0 Enforcement of the Award (Rule 21)
An award of the Authority shall be enforceable as an order of the High Court. Any person who fails or refuses to comply with the award shall be liable to contempt proceedings at the High Court.
7.0 Appellate Procedures(Rule 22)
Any party aggrieved by the decision of the Authority may within twenty one days after the delivery of the award appeal to the Fair Competition Tribunal.
8.0 Limitation of Proceedings (Rule 24)
It is important for parties to understand that institution of complaints before the Authority is subject to limitation. This implies that any dispute submitted to the Authority after expiry of the time limit shall not be entertained. Such a complaint will end up being dismissed.
An extension of time to file a complaint out of time shall be granted upon good cause being made to the Board of the Authority. The extension of time lies on the discretion of the Board where it may consider just and equitable to do so (Rule 28).
The following are time limits provided under the Seventh Schedule for institution of complaints before the Authority:
|S/N||NATURE OF COMPLAINT
|PERIOD OF LIMITATION|
|1||Unlawful disconnection of service||twelve months|
|2||Improper Billing||twelve months|
|3||Failure or refusal to connect the service||twelve months|
|4||Sell or supply of Off Specification Petroleum Products||seven days|
|5||Sell or supply of Petroleum Product above the Cap Price||six months|
|6||Poor quality of service||twenty four months|
An in-depth understanding of the law and procedure for dispute settlement by EWURA is important for consumers to enforce their rights against suppliers of regulated services and goods. As pointed out above, there are complaints in the electricity and water subsector on billing, delayed connection and compensation yet few people in Tanzania are aware of the mechanism for dispute settlement under EWURA.
This article has been prepared by the research unit at Breakthrough Attorneys, with a view of shedding light to the general public towards enforcement of their rights in connection with the services and goods from the regulated suppliers. We believe, the information contained shall be of significant for enlightening the general public on the law and procedure for dispute settlement by the Authority. However, for clarity we recommend that parties seek for legal guidance before proceeding to file their complaints with the Authority.
This publication has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and, to the extent permitted by law, Breakthrough Attorneys, its members, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it