Friday, 20 January 2012

Another free idea (this time for BPC)

Last week I gave away two free ideas to our friends, the decision-makers in Government. You can see them in full in last week’s Mmegi or on our blog site. The first was to abolish the Consumer Protection Unit, to devolve it’s powers to local authorities and councils and to make a formal link between consumer rights and trade licensing. Local authorities would have the right, perhaps even the obligation, to consider the level of complaints that had been made about a store, and how well they had been resolved, before renewing a store’s licence. They can already deny a store a licence on safety and hygiene grounds, why not also on how they treat their customers?

The second idea was to allow you and I to enforce our own rights. At the moment we have to rely on the Consumer Protection Unit to enforce their Regulations on our behalf. I want that to change. I want you and I to be able to drag a badly behaving store or supplier to Court ourselves and demand problems are fixed. I want us to go the rather wonderful Small Claims Court and ask them to order a store to remedy a breach of the Regulations. I don’t think this is too much to ask, do you? We’re grown ups, we are perfectly capable of reading the excellently written Regulations and understanding when our rights have been abused. We should be allowed by government to do some of these things ourselves.

So what about another free idea? Not for Government this time but for our most respected purveyor of electricity, the esteemed Botswana Power Corporation.

Before you continue, let me stress that this is NOT going to be a rant against BPC. Others have done that, there’s no point in me adding my complaints to the list. Instead I want to be positive, I want to be constructive and helpful.

At least part of the problem we’re facing with power is that we use too much of it. Yes, I DO mean you and me but I also mean stores, showrooms and factories. I mean company offices, government buildings and shopping centers. If we used less electricity the need for load-shedding would surely decrease. And here’s a novel idea: we’d save money.

But we all know this, don’t we? I’m not claiming the moral high ground, I know I’m just as wasteful as you are. But neither of us is as wasteful as the car showrooms that keep their lights on all night or the shopping centers who keep their advertising switched on all night.

So here’s the idea. Structured bill adjustments.

I think our electricity bills, and those of stores and companies, should have structured discounts and premiums applied to them depending on how our consumption has changed. I don’t just mean that lower consumption would mean lower bills, I mean more than that. I think BPC should apply additional discounts, or premiums, on top of the bill.

For instance, I’d like to see my January electricity bill have a statement at the bottom saying:
“Your consumption for January 2012 is 10% lower than in January 2011. We have therefore deducted an additional 10% from your bill.”
So I not only get a lower bill because I used less power but they reward me even further.

But, most importantly, it would work the other way as well. If you use 10% more power than last year then you pay an additional 10% as a punishment. So your bill goes up? I don’t care, you’ve used more power. You’ve either built another wing to your mansion, bought too many Play Stations or you’ve been careless, I really don’t give a damn, you deserve to subsidize those customers who have reduced their consumption. If you don’t want your bills to go up then cut your electricity usage as you construct your new luxury swimming pool.

Fancy an example? Let’s say your power bill last January was P500 and this month, because you’ve been power conscious, switched off your geyser and pool pump during the day and switched to lower power light bulbs, this January you use 10% less power. So already your bill would have dropped to P450, assuming energy prices are the same. But then BPC would knock another 10% off the P450 as a reward. Your final bill is now down to P405.

And if your consumption went UP by 10%? Then your new bill, including the power-hog penalty, would be a significantly higher at P605.

The advantage is that this genuinely rewards those of us who cut our consumption and help avoid load-shedding. It also puts the extra burden on those who deserve it, the ones who don’t even try.

Here’s a challenging thought for those of us, like me, who like a drink. The evidence, if you really want to face it, is that the only effective way to reduce alcohol consumption is to increase the price. Adding a duty onto the cost of booze is the only known, effective way, to make people cut down. So why is power any different? If we can do it for alcohol we can do it for electricity, but at least this way we can also reward those who do the right thing.

I’ve only one last suggestion. I don’t think this goes far enough. I think the discount or premium we get should be DOUBLE our change in consumption. Reduce your consumption by 10% and you get a 20% discount taking your P500 bill last year to a mere P360. Increase your usage by 10% and your bill will leap from P500 to P660.

Of course this will make some people unhappy but it will delight others. Which do you want to be? And what do BPC want to be? An organization we all despise or one that comes up with innovative and rewarding solutions for it’s customers?

This week’s stars
  • Brian from Ellies for attentive service and good follow up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is creative and it actually addresses the problem.

Richard, could you put your mind to a procedure for BPCto get government offices to save on airconditioning and heating expenses...those are large buildings with conspicuously waste.