Consumer ProtectionCP1CDevelop consumer chart guidelines that establish clear rights and duties
Another important tool available to consumers and operators are consumer charts.
These are usually conceived as notification portals where both parties can quickly exchange on a range of issues predefined by regulators. These issues to a large extent encompass contractual rights and duties.
Regulators also have a duty to provide guidelines for operators to promote the development of consumer service charts, and to declare a commitment to provide the best possible service to customers. Established to serve as a notification platform, consumer charts have also proved to be a valuable source of information for regulators.
- Service operators receive feedback from consumers through an interactive and templated mechanism.
- Consumers are aware of their rights and duties.
- Regulator can access information from consumers at all times.
In South Africa, the Johannesburg Water customer care programme operates two 24-hour call centres, one for revenue-related complaints and the other for technical issues, and two walk-in contact centres, while also offering customers contact by post and email.
It also maintains an open and transparent relationship with its customers and publishes a customer service charter that declares the utility’s commitment to provide the best possible service to its customers.
The Johannesburg Water has benefited enormously from maintaining good customer care and relations. By responding quickly and providing feedback, customers are more likely to inform the utility of service failures that can then be rectified quickly.
In response, customers are satisfied and more willing to pay for services.
Internal capacities needed and the role of partners
When drafting consumer chart guidelines, regulators can rely on many good examples currently in use. The main capacities needed, include IT, communication, and legal abilities to appropriately convert contractual rights and duties into an interactive platform.
Possible actors to seek capacity support from include consumer associations, operators, and civil society. Development partners could help with regional technical exchanges with other regulators. Regulators’ staff must be trained on how consumer charts are applied by other regulators, and how to build on their lessons learned.