One of the basic tenets of consumerism is the right of the consumer to choose. However, we live in a society where this basic right is fast disappearing. The Jamaican consumer's right to choose is all but gone and this is compounded by the fact that there are too many monopolies offering goods and essential services in the society. It can be argued that, wherever a multitude of monopolies exist, the rights of the consumer are trampled on. This ought not to be.
Let us examine for a moment the Jamaica Public Service Company's (JPS) new Energy Guard anti-theft system. It is currently being implemented in communities the company considers high risk for electricity theft. With this new system, individual meters are removed from the premises of the owner and placed on the outside which, according to the company, will provide easier access to facilitate meter reading, but most importantly, this system will end electricity theft.
However, was any consideration given to those JPS consumers who have had a history of paying their bills on time, as well as those consumers who have no history of electricity theft? Why is it that such consumers could not have been given a choice of whether or not they wish to become a part of the Energy Guard system? Or is a matter that no choice is built into this new system?
This JPS policy is based on the assumption that all consumers in high-risk areas are stealing or likely to steal electricity. This supposition is unfair and discriminatory since only specific geographical areas are being targeted.
No one is disputing that there are some individuals who steal electricity. What is debatable is the manner in which JPS has gone about implementing this new policy without any consultation.
Where else in the world could such a high-handed approach be tolerated? Indeed, electricity theft is a major problem for the light and power company, but I do believe that some level of choice should be in the discourse. Ironically, in some of the communities where JPS considers low or no risk for electricity theft, they would be shocked to discover this is not so.
Why is it that Jamaica's monopoly companies must always force the hands of their customers by not offering them a choice in matters that will directly impact them?
To add to the already sad state of affairs, in instances where a premises has more than one meter, customers are being told to get a private electrician to install additional 'potheads' to facilitate each meter having a separate line. Why should the consumer be asked to foot this added cost?
After the meters have been removed from the premises of the owner, a plastic covering should be placed over the space which held the meter. However, in some instances, this is not being done because the contractors do not have adequate supplies. This practice is very dangerous and most unacceptable and JPS needs to address this issue most urgently.
As a footnote, the light post with number 083283 appears to be in need of repair, maybe even replaced.