COMPLAINTS AND HANDLING PROCEDURE
Definition of terms
In this procedure unless the context otherwise requires, the following are the definitions of terms:
Licensee means a licensed operator holding a valid permit to undertake a regulated activity;
Consumer means a person consuming / using energy;
Complaint means an expression of dissatisfaction by a consumer relating to a service or product provided by a licensee;
Complainant means any person who lodges a written or verbal complaint to the licensee;
Hearing means a meeting convened and by the regulator in order to accord both the complainant and licensee an opportunity to present their case to a neutral party;
Resolution means a determination made by the regulator in respect of any complaint or query lodged by the complainant.
Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA), a corporate body established under the Energy Regulatory Act No. 20 of 2004, is mandated to regulate the energy sector in Malawi in a fair, transparent, efficient and cost effective manner for the benefit of consumers and operators.
To be a World Class Energy Regulator.
To regulate the energy sector for sustainable socio-economic development of the nation and the region.
Activities regulated by MERA:
- Electricity generation, transmission, distribution, importation and exportation
- Liquid Fuels and Gas, which includes: Petroleum products, Bio-fuels, Bio-gas and Commercial gasses
- Renewable Energy Technologies
Purpose of the Complaints Handling Procedure
The purpose of the procedure is to define the steps to be followed when consumers want to complain against licensee. MERA aims to promote consistent and effective handling of complaints.
Where to complain
Where the consumer is not satisfied with a product or service provided a licensee, the first point of contact should be the licenced operator.
The consumer should keep copies of all written correspondence, supporting documents as well details of any calls made or people spoke with at the licensee.
If the consumer is having difficulty resolving a problem directly with the licensee or he/she is not satisfied with the outcome of efforts to solve the problem, he/she can contact MERA. The complaint to MERA should be seen primarily as an appeal.
MERA shall investigate the complaint and determine options for resolution and endeavor to solve the issue in as short time as possible depending on the nature of the complaint. MERA is committed to resolving complaints within 30 business days, however, this may not be possible on every occasion. Where MERA has been unable to resolve a complaint within 30 business days, the complainant will be informed of the reason for the delay and be provided with a date when MERA will be in a position to finalise the complaint.
If the complainant is not satisfied the outcome of MERA’s complaint handling, he/she can take the matter to a competent court of jurisdiction.
Lodging complaints with MERA:
MERA shall accept complaints from any person or consumer that may seek MERA’s intervention if they are not satisfied with the handling of their complaint by a licensee or if they consider the outcome inconclusive.
Complaints may be lodged verbally or in writing. Where a complainant phones or visits MERA in person, a MERA Officer will write down the complaint, read it over and explain to the complaint in a language that he/she understands. The complainant will then endorse the contents or request for amendments to be made. The complainant may choose to appear in person or be represented;
Telephone numbers: The consumer should lodge his complaint by calling MERA on: 01 774 103/ 105, or 01 775 810
Fax: 01 772 666
Head Office: 2nd Floor, Development House, City Centre, Lilongwe
Regional Office North: Mpico House, Mzuzu
Regional Office South: Delamere House, Blantyre
Postal Address: Private Bag B-496, Lilongwe 3.
Type of information required when lodging a complaint
Information supplied by a complainant will be used as the starting point for investigations. It is advisable that as much information as possible is made available by the complainant. The consumer may be contacted further to clarify details or to request additional information where necessary.
The following information is required when lodging a complaint:
- The full name, contact details and account number (where applicable) of the complainant.
- The licensee against whom the complaint is made.
- Details of prior contact with the service provider.
- Details of the complaint, together with copies of any document in support of the complaint.
- The nature of the injustice or harm that the complainant has suffered as a result of the action, inaction or omission of undertaking against whom the complaint is made.
- Any other matter relevant to the complaint.
- Where the person who lodges a complaint is acting on behalf of another person, company or organization, he/she must state in writing the capacity in which he/she is acting, and the reason for doing so.
The complaint handling process
Once a complaint is lodged MERA shall work impartially in order to arrive at a fair and satisfactory outcome.
MERA shall undertake an initial review of the complaint and determine if additional information or documentation may be required to institute an investigation.
MERA may conduct an inspection to ascertain the validity of the complaint.
MERA shall forward a copy of the complaint to the licensee being complained against. The licensee will be accorded an appropriate time frame within which a response must be made to MERA.
The complainant will be informed of the time frame within which the licensee has to respond to the demanded rectification measures.
The complainant has the right to make enquire about the status of his/her complaint by contacting MERA.
MERA can act as a mediator or arbitrator. On approval of the parties involved, MERA may appoint a suitable person to act as a mediator or arbitrator on its behalf. During the mediation, parties will be assisted to reach an amicable solution. However, the complainant and the licensee retain the right to decide whether or not to agree to a settlement. On the other hand, in the case of arbitration, the arbitrator makes a binding decision on the complaint or dispute.
MERA shall provide the complainant with a formal notification of the findings and outcomes.
MERA shall also discuss and review the resolution and the consumer’s point of view to ensure fairness and clarity. The review of the complaint will include recognition and documentation of any underlying issues that have contributed to the complaint.
If the complaint is already being investigated by a relevant agency or consumer protection body, MERA may cease to take further action in relation to the complaint pending finalisation of their investigation. However, MERA will assist any agency with their investigations when requested to do so.
Expression of dissatisfaction with MERA’s complaint handling
Where the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the mediation or arbitration, he/she has the right to take the matter to a court of jurisdiction or refer the matter to any other competent authority.
If the complainant is not satisfied with how MERA has handled the complaint he/she should first try to resolve the issue with the staff member involved in the first instance. Where the outcome of the discussion remains unsatisfactory, the complainant can report the matter to the staff member’s supervisor.
If the complainant is still not satisfied after taking these steps, he /she can write to the Chief Executive Officer, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, Private Bag B-496, LILONGWE 3 Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MERA expects complainants and licensees to adhere to resolutions within the stipulated timeframes. The timeframe may be extended upon a written request by either of the parties to a dispute.
The licensee will submit a written report stating measures undertaken to comply with the resolution. Where necessary, MERA shall carry out a verification inspection.
Where the service provider has not complied with MERA’s resolution, MERA shall carry out the necessary enforcement action provided in the licence conditions and the energy laws
Safeguarding consumer’s interest
- MERA shall encourage licensees to have in place complaints handling procedures designed to ensure speedy resolution of complaints in line with the licence conditions.
- MERA shall promote the consumers right to demand quality service by encouraging the consumers to first approach the licensee.
- Complainants will be informed of the status of their complaint.
- At the conclusion of each complaint, MERA will request the concerned consumer for feedback on how the complaint was handled.
- In addition to reviewing the resolution before the closure of the complaint, MERA shall conduct periodical consumer/customer satisfaction surveys aimed at evaluating compliance to and effectiveness of the complaint handling procedure.
- MERA shall carry out consumer sensitization and awareness programmes.