Oman’s power sector regulator strengthens consumer protections

The Authority for Electricity Regulation (AER) Oman has issued an executive decision that seeks to reinforce the interests and legitimate rights of electricity consumers versus utilities licensed to supply electricity and potable water in the Sultanate.

Executive Decision 4/2020 sets out, among other things, clearly defined guidelines for the handling and disposal of customer complaints, particularly related to electricity consumers.

It recognises the right of customers to submit complaints against licensed companies relating to billing disputes, supply breakdown, or other grievances, particularly if the utility fails to address the complaint to the satisfaction of the customer. Complaints cannot be considered closed by the utility unless a letter goes out to the customer outlining steps taken to resolve and address the consumer’s specific grievance.

Importantly, the new order caps any outstanding amounts charged by a licensed company at 12 months of the customer’s monthly consumption average if such outstandings were the result of faulty billing or meter readings.  The customer’s liability is limited to amounts owed for the last 12 months from the date of the submission of the correct claim by the utility.

Additionally, the decision places strict conditions for disconnections stemming from non-payment of bills.  Utilities are urged to either avoid or put off disconnections and to consider asking the defaulting customer to pay any outstanding amounts in monthly installments taking into account their financial wherewithal.

The Executive Decision safeguarding the interests of consumers has been published in the Official Gazette of July 26, 2020.  Eng Hilal al Ghaithi, Director General of the Customer Affairs Department, stated: “The issuance of these regulations highlights the role of the Authority in protecting and promoting the interests of subscribers of the electricity sector in accordance with the tasks and responsibilities granted to it under the sector law. The regulation aims mainly to improve the quality of activities provided by licensed companies. This is in response to the developments witnessed by the electricity sector since its restructuring in 2005 and to reflect the technical development in the systems and procedures in the field of customer service.”