The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) is a tripartite body and stands unique in this regard relative to other regional regulators. Dr. Marsha Atherley-Ikechi, the CEO, explained that the FTC is comprised of three divisions: Consumer Protection; Utility Regulation; and Fair Competition. It is in this regard that it cannot, as a whole, be considered a consumer protection agency.
The Commission has the responsibility to ensure effective competition amongst businesses, consider the needs of the consumer and the regulated utility companies while executing the mandate of Government. This was a point recently made by Dr. Atherley-Ikechi, during an interview on CBC TV’s One on One, as the organisation prepares to hear arguments from the Barbados Light and Power Co. Ltd. (BLPC) and eight intervenors.
She said: “In all that we do, we must balance the interests of the consumer, while ensuring the utility companies are effectively providing the necessary service to the same consumer.” She added: “The relationship among these two groups is symbiotic as each requires the other.” “Our role is to make sure there is a fair playing field for the consumer and utility to operate while simultaneously ensuring the Government’s mandate is met.”
Dr. Atherley-Ikechi admitted that striking the perfect balance between the interests of a utility company and the consumer is not easy to achieve, especially in the current environment, and she stressed that the FTC must ensure that a level of equity prevails.
The FTC is preparing to hear submissions by the BLPC and intervenors for a review of electricity rates. This is the first such hearing in 12 years.