A wish for legible bills and other requests Consumer Concerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
January 18, 2004

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It is customary to make wishes for a New Year. These are my wishes:

I do wish that the public utilities, stationery stores, supermarkets and all who issue bills and machine slips would consider issuing ones that can be read without the aid of a magnifying glass or a torch. It is irritating to receive a bill which cannot be read even by persons with 90 per cent vision.

At the same time I wish that the Accountant General's Department would clarify whether revenue stamps are required on machine slips. In the year 1997, I was informed that stamps were required and it was so printed in the Telephone Directory for that year. However, no effort was made to ensure compliance with the law. Today an enquiry at the Accountant General's Department left me in the dark. When I asked whether revenue stamps were required, I was told, "I don't think so." I would imagine that a sizeable amount of income could be derived from this source. Concentration on sitting ducks for income tax and other revenues should end.

I do hope that someone would bring it to the attention of Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and the Guyana Water Authority (GWI) that most of their customers are in a very distressful position as far as money is concerned. They cannot put their hands on large sums of money at a moment's notice. I wish that the two utilities would advise their clerks not to say "You have to pay" to customers who challenge their bills.

At present, the GPL is checking for malfunctioning meters. Those which erroneously indicate a zero consumption are being replaced. At the same time, such customers are being billed arbitrarily by GPL. It would seem that no attention is being paid to the previous pattern of consumption, before the malfunctioning took place, or to the electrical equipment installed and in use in these homes. I wish that the authorities would have a heart.

There is a complaint that GWI is not reading all the meters they have installed. They give estimated bills. In one case a customer found it cheaper to switch his residential line to a business line on his premises as the GWI demanded a sum that was way outside the customer's expectations. Meters should be read at regular intervals, at least every three months.

GWI also has no regular hours for high pressure. For three days and three nights my upper apartment was without a drop of water in the taps. The flow of water is also interrupted at times. I wish that GWI would check on those customers who pull water directly from the main. That could account for the intermittent flow of water. I wish that GWI clerks who deal with customer complaints would be more customer-friendly.

I wish that GWI would review the sewerage charge for small businesses which should not be required to pay at the same rate as large business enterprises.

I do wish that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd (GT&T) would concentrate on installing fixed lines to accommodate persons who have been waiting for years for telephones in their homes and business places.

It is my earnest wish that licences to drive minibuses and cars are not issued to persons who reveal a disregard for the lives of other persons and that some attention be paid to the safety of pedestrians, in particular to the safety of children on the road.

Again, I wish that the Domestic Violence Act would be reviewed. The Act, as it is, has done nothing to reduce domestic violence. To send a violent person to jail is not the answer. Possibly there is need for a psychological assessment and treatment.

And here I would venture to wish that assistance should be sought from overseas to improve the conditions at the psychiatric wards. Assistance was obtained in Fiji. We, too, could benefit.

I do wish that the Public Utilities Commission would appoint a secretary. At present the financial analyst is acting as secretary, but one would think that there is ample work for a full-time secretary.

And I do wish that my editor would allow me to write about Yoga. Yoga is open to all religions and does not seek to divide people into sects. Those who practise yoga learn to put tabs on people. They see everyone as a soul and all souls are equal.

Finally, I wish that in this year 2004 we begin to see ourselves as one people, Guyanese. Forty years on from independence we should have reached our goal of "One people, one nation, one destiny."