One-stop shop for Al­berta util­ity con­sumers

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Prairies -

Al­ber­tans who have con­cerns about their water util­ity provider can ac­cess free me­di­a­tion ser­vices through the Util­i­ties Con­sumer Ad­vo­cate be­gin­ning Dec. 1.

The Of­fice of the Util­i­ties Con­sumer Ad­vo­cate (UCA) has a proven record of ed­u­cat­ing nat­u­ral gas and elec­tric­ity con­sumers and me­di­at­ing util­ity-re­lated dis­putes.

In June, the gov­ern­ment passed An Act to Em­power Util­ity Con­sumers, which ex­panded the man­date of the UCA to in­clude water util­i­ties.

Ef­fec­tive Dec. 1, the UCA will be a one-stop shop for peo­ple look­ing for help on water, nat­u­ral gas and elec­tric­ity is­sues. The UCA pre­vi­ously me­di­ated dis­putes be­tween con­sumers and elec­tric­ity and nat­u­ral gas providers, but can now help water util­ity cus­tomers with ques­tions about billing, cus­tomer ser­vice, dis­con­nec­tion and me­ter­ing is­sues.

“Al­ber­tans hit with un­ex­pect­edly high water bills told us they had nowhere to go. The UCA has a long his­tory of me­di­at­ing dis­putes be­tween con­sumers and elec­tric­ity and nat­u­ral gas providers, and the UCA will now be able to help Al­ber­tans with their water bills. Find­ing new ways to pro­tect con­sumers is an­other ex­am­ple of how we’re mak­ing life bet­ter for Al­ber­tans.” says Brian Malkin­son, Min­is­ter of Ser­vice Al­berta. UCA panel up and run­ning

In ad­di­tion to the ex­panded man­date, a new panel that will ad­vise on elec­tric­ity and nat­u­ral gas mat­ters con­cern­ing res­i­den­tial, agri­cul­tural and small busi­ness con­sumers is now in oper­a­tion.

The Power and Nat­u­ral Gas Con­sumers Panel was cre­ated to pro­vide ad­vice and guid­ance re­gard­ing cur­rent and emerg­ing en­ergy con­sumer is­sues to the Min­is­ter of Ser­vice Al­berta and the UCA.

The panel has nine mem­bers, in­clud­ing four mem­bers who rep­re­sent the fol­low­ing stake­holder groups:

• Al­berta Cham­bers of Com­merce;

• Al­berta Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture;

• Al­berta Ur­ban Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion;

• Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Al­berta.

The re­main­ing five pub­lic mem­bers were se­lected through an open com­pe­ti­tion, based on a di­verse range of skill sets.

They bring to the panel back­grounds in pol­icy/law, util­ity in­fra­struc­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial work and home own­er­ship.

The panel will meet two to four times a year and is pro­jected to have an an­nual bud­get of $32,000.

This is an 88 per cent de­crease from the pre­vi­ous gover­nance body, the UCA Ad­vi­sory Board, which av­er­aged an an­nual bud­get of $264,000 dur­ing the three years prior to its dis­so­lu­tion in 2016.

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