Time to top-up your power

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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JAMAICA Public Service's (JPS) customers may soon be able to pay their bills in advance through a pre-paid system that will be implemented next year.


"Jamaicans already have a pre-paid psychology, said Kelly Tomblin, president and chief executive officer of JPS.


Most people in Jamaica are used to paying for their cell phones with pre-paid cards.


"We believe the system can be easily managed and it gives customers a way to mange their expenses" she said.


Pre-paid metres will form an integral part of the company's program to help reduce losses and is a key strategic initiative in 2013, the company said.


A programme to persuade customers to take the new metres will be launched early next year.


So far, the project's team has conducted research and the programme is in its planning stages, JPS said.


Preliminary feedback from customers is that it is something they would appreciate, said Winsome Callum, JPS's head of corporate communications.


Some of the company's customers don't just pay their bills on time, they pay in advance," she said. "As soon as they get their income, they pay."


Tomblin reckons the system will be economically viable.


JPS has already installed 6,000 Korean-built metres that have a pre-paid capacity, but the software to support the system is not yet in place.


Elsewhere in the world, "where these systems have been installed, there is a high level of customer satisfaction. It gives the customer control," JPS said. Customers know how much they can afford to spend and they regulate their use.


The system would offer an alternative to disconnection for customers who have trouble paying their bills.


Currently, the only tool the company has with people who don't pay on time is to cut them off, since it can't charge interest or late fees.


"Something may come up. And for some reason, a customer may run into problems and have their light cut off," Tomblin said. "Paying in advance will spare our customers."


But the metres are unlikely to address a bigger problem for the company, the 25 per cent system loss due to theft. Many power users have never paid for their electricity in their lives, Tomblin told the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange.


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