Silence does not give consent Consumer Concerns
Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
June 13, 2004

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It is said that silence gives consent. This is not always true. It was not true in the case of the Special General Meeting of The New Building Society which was held on Monday, June 7. Members of the society sat mesmerised and silent as the NBS Chairman showed no signs of dealing individually with the 27 amendments that were contained in a 21- page document. Within 15 minutes the whole document was put to the vote and carried with no consideration or input from any person who attended.

It was unprecedented to have amendments to rules of a society considered en bloc. It was noted that at the Annual General Meeting of this same society all the items on the agenda were considered with precision.

There was no time- wasting and little opportunity for members to participate. There was no criticism of the high-handed actions. It bodes ill for a multi-million dollar society.

Staff members, identifiable by their uniforms, stood in the sidelines. Members who travelled from outlying districts may have wondered whether a meeting that lasted approximately 20 minutes was worth the cost of travel.

It seems that insurance companies arrange their meetings at 14:00 hours when few persons can attend and members of staff stand ready to give support to the board.

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Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) again and again blames consumers for wasting water. On the other hand, consumers complain that information regarding burst mains or leaking pipes falls on deaf ears when officers at GWI are contacted.

There is water flowing from a pipe in the empty lot at the corner of Lamaha and Camp Streets and numerous reports to GWI have not resulted in action being taken to stop the waste.

Neighbours may place a cork in the pipe but vagrants enter the yard, remove the cork and leave the water flowing.

Residents at Hopetown Village had to express their concern at the wastage in their village. On eight roads there was water flowing from burst pipes.

In two cases water had been wasting for more than a year. A letter-writer in the Stabroek News of June 8 reports that from May 12 to June 8 water was flowing from a damaged pipe.

* * *

A complaint was received on Tuesday that Guyana Power & Light was arranging to remove a meter from a consumer's home. The company claimed that the owner had tampered with it.

On investigation we discovered that the meter had been registering zero units or 1 or 2 units for a considerable time.

The GPL has promised to inspect the meter to see whether it was malfunctioning or whether someone had tampered with it. Consumers should know that there is a fault if a meter has a very low consumption pattern, indeed, if a refrigerator and other electrical appliances are used.

On the other hand, some consumers can run up large bills by arranging to be reconnected after disconnection takes place.

How is it that the disconnection crew fails to see that reconnection has taken place? This, we understand, is required of the crew.

In other dishonest acts, some consumers attach their lines to neighbouring lines. All consumers should be on the lookout for this.

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Consumers complain that taxi services charge for two drops when two persons enter a taxi and drop off at different locations or if one person temporarily stops for some reason or the other, even without disembarking.

When a consumer stops at one location for no more than five minutes and then continues his journey, there is no charge for waiting time, but if the consumer stays for more than five minutes he is charged for the total waiting time.

A passenger who is transacting business for more than five minutes should therefore terminate his journey and ask the taxi to return later.

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How many consumers took the trouble to read Business Page on May 23 and 30 when Mr Christopher Ram reported on the operations of Guyana Telegraph & Telephone Company Limited?

The fine print and length of the article will intimidate the average consumer, but knowledge of the operations of such a large company certainly leads us to understand why Guyana is in such a money crisis today. We are horrified to learn that this large company pays no withholding tax and that it was allowed to file a complaint against an Inland Revenue assessment without complying with the law and paying the sum in dispute before lodging an appeal.

Article 6 of the Guidelines for the Protection of Consumers, issued by the United Nations and accepted by member countries in 1986, clearly states "All enterprises should obey the relevant laws and regulations of the countries in which they do business."