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Consumer protection consultation nears end

Consumer protection: the Regulatory Authority's consultation period will come to an end tomorrow

The Regulatory Authority of Bermuda is calling for feedback regarding a comprehensive set of consumer protection initiatives that it proposes to implement in the island’s electricity and electronic communications sectors.

The proposed changes are outlined in a consultation document on the Authority’s website. The deadline for receipt of comments is 5pm tomorrow.

The consultation document covers proposed rules and standards relating to the commercial and marketing practices to which service providers must adhere when retailing goods and services to consumers.

“The Authority is acutely aware that there are currently deficiencies in the standards and processes in place to address consumer issues in the regulated sectors,” the consultation document says. “The Authority has undertaken an extensive analysis of global best practices relating to consumer protection in both the electricity and electronic communications sectors. The approach proposed in this consultation document contains the key elements necessary to develop and strengthen the Authority’s consumer protection framework, including frontline staff training, requirements for handling of consumer complaints, and marketing and advertising practices.”

Issues addressed in the consultation document include a consumer’s ‘right to exit’ where a service provider proposes to change the terms of a contract, a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period in relation to broadband products to allow consumers to exit a contract during those 14 days without penalty, maximum contract length of 24 months for retail broadband products, contract summaries for any contract exceeding two pages, as well as a consumer’s right to control the length of time to which they remain bound to a term contract after expiration. In the latter case, the Authority proposes that any automatic renewal provisions in a contract be limited to month-to-month under the same terms and conditions as the expired agreement.

Additional issues addressed by the Authority include how to apply for service, the content of bills, information on tariffs, handling of customer complaints, the marketing, advertising and selling practices of service providers, staff training, a prohibition on unsolicited direct marketing, confidentiality of customer information, enforcement of disputes by the Authority, accessibility, restrictions on the termination of service if doing so would be dangerous to a customer’s health, advance notice of any planned outages, a customer’s right to refuse advanced metering infrastructure meters, and a requirement that service providers give sufficient and accurate information about the process of switching providers.

Feedback is sought by the Authority in relation to a prescribed set of questions, which are set out in Part VIII of the 25-page consultation document.

The deadline for providing comments is 5pm tomorrow. The Authority website is at https://rab.bm/. Click on ‘See our Active Consultations’ on the homepage to review the consultation document.