Albertans who have concerns about their water utility provider can access free mediation services through the Utilities Consumer Advocate beginning Dec. 1.
The Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) has a proven record of educating natural gas and electricity consumers and mediating utility-related disputes. In June, the government passed An Act to Empower Utility Consumers, which expanded the mandate of the UCA to include water utilities.
Effective Dec. 1, the UCA will be a one-stop shop for people looking for help on water, natural gas and electricity issues. The UCA previously mediated disputes between consumers and electricity and natural gas providers, but can now help water utility customers with questions about billing, customer service, disconnection and metering issues.
“Albertans hit with unexpectedly high water bills told us they had nowhere to go. The UCA has a long history of mediating disputes between consumers and electricity and natural gas providers, and the UCA will now be able to help Albertans with their water bills. Finding new ways to protect consumers is another example of how we’re making life better for Albertans.”
~Brian Malkinson, Minister of Service Alberta
UCA panel up and running
In addition to the expanded mandate, a new panel that will advise on electricity and natural gas matters concerning residential, agricultural and small business consumers is now in operation.
The Power and Natural Gas Consumers Panel was created to provide advice and guidance regarding current and emerging energy consumer issues to the Minister of Service Alberta and the UCA.
The panel has nine members, including four members who represent the following stakeholder groups:
- Alberta Chambers of Commerce
- Alberta Federation of Agriculture
- Alberta Urban Municipalities Association
- Rural Municipalities of Alberta
The remaining five public members were selected through an open competition, based on a diverse range of skill sets. They bring to the panel backgrounds in policy/law, utility infrastructure, education, social work and home ownership.
The panel will meet two to four times a year and is projected to have an annual budget of $32,000. This is an 88 per cent decrease from the previous governance body, the UCA Advisory Board, which averaged an annual budget of $264,000 during the three years prior to its dissolution in 2016.