St. John’s Antigua- The Antigua & Barbuda Consumers Association Friday promised protest action if the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) carries through with disconnection threats which local lawyers have said are illegal.
APUA has told customers that they face having all their services disconnected if just one remains in arrears.
“That won’t be going down well with the association and if they implement it or start to implement it, we will take protest action against it,” association vice-president Hudson Knight told OBSERVER Media.
“That is not fair. I can understand them disconnecting for the service for which you owe but it’s not right for them to disconnect the service that you don’t owe for,” Knight said.
At least two local lawyers have opined that the move could be illegal. One of the lawyers, who spoke to OBSERVER Media on the condition of anonymity, said, “Each service that you have with them is a separate contract even if it’s with the same company.
“So if you have not breached the terms of that particular contract, they cannot use it against you in another contract situation,” the attorney said.
But APUA may have found its authority from regulations under the Public Utilities Act of 1973.
Under the Public Utilities Supply and Discontinuance Regulation, if an account has been disconnected and, “still remains wholly or partly unpaid by the consumer 60 days after the date of such discontinuance or disconnection then the Authority may discontinue the supply to such consumer of any or all of the other public utilities supplied to such consumer.”
Pensioner Eddie Hunte has dismissed the statements by the APUA as “unconscionable,” adding that the company has not taken into consideration the plight of the vulnerable.
“That is a very hard and tough decision, particularly in view of those people who might not be able to make it as readily as people who are working,” Hunte, who is also president of the Pensioners’ Association, said.
“If you have been paying your bills and one has not been paid, to cut off the utility that you have made the attempt to clear is taking it a little bit far,” he said.
APUA says it is owed close to $700 million with the government of Antigua & Barbuda owing $330 million while the bill for statutory corporations is over $19 million. Private companies owe $50 million, according to APUA.