FLOW Have Nerve A Raise Price

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

FLOW+2012+NEW+LOGOIt look like seh Garfield Sinclair lik im head. Im a di man in charge a FLOW Jamaica. Im no see seh di bigger boss dem fi Liberty Global, weh own FLOW, a gi im basket fi carry water? Seh dem waan mek more money offa wi. Di amount a customer weh a bawl bout FLOW bad service! An Liberty Global coulda a set fi wi, a plan fi raise price? No sah! Nutten couldn’t go so.

Mek mi tek dat back. Nutten shouldn’t go so. But dem have di handle an wi have di blade. So dem can do anyting dem waan. An nobody cyaan do nutten bout it. Yes, wi can switch to Digicel. Ih-ih? Oonu no hear seh Digicel owe so much money dem a look money fi borrow fi pay off di money dem owe? Debt top a debt. Digicel cyaan help demself, much more wi. Dem a raise fi dem price to. Watch out! No better pork; no better barrel.

Mi waan know wa Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) a do bout FLOW an Digicel. An by di way, mi no work fi OUR. Mi tired fi people a email mi a complain bout FLOW an Digicel. All mi can do a write bout it. Oonu fi email OUR. An call dem. An carry on bad. Oonu fi go demonstrate outside a OUR office. Mek dem know seh oonu serious. Oonu waan justice!

Hear wa smaddy email an tell mi last week. Im seh FLOW gi im bout 2 week notice seh dem a go raise dem phone rate from $2.99 to $3.99. Digicel gi im 2 day notice seh dem a go raise fi dem rate from $2.95 to $3.95. Oonu see seh FLOW an Digicel a sing di same Sankey!

 

MI NO SORRY FI DEM

 

Den ascorden to one Gleaner article weh publish pon May 17, ‘FLOW Jamaica hikes cable rates amid losses’. FLOW lost 533 million dollar fi di first three month a disya year. Mi no know a weh dem go put down dat deh whole heap a money careless mek dem go lost di whole a it. Mi no sorry fi dem. A wi mi sorry fa. FLOW a depend pon wi fi gi dem back all a di money weh dem lost. Anyting coulda go so? A no wi response.

late-show-stephen-colbert

Mek mi tell oonu bout fi mi FLOW cable service. Mi cyaan even get TVJ! Most a di programme dem mi waan watch off di air. Yu see all Stephen Colbert show. Dat a one wicked comedy show. A pure politics im deal wid. When im done wid di poppyshow weh a gwaan eena Merica, yu weak. Talk bout tek bad tings mek joke! Dat deh channel, 123, gawn. Mi ha fi a wait so til next morning fi ketch Colbert pon di Internet.

An a no like seh FLOW a cut dem price fi mek up fi all a di channel dem weh gawn. Dem a raise di price. Dem no ha no conscience. John Crow nyam it out. So now, wi ha fi go pay more fi less? If FLOW tink seh dem a lost money now, mek dem wait so til wi go pon strike an stop buy dem bandooloo cable service. A den dem a go lost money. Mi can get TVJ fi nutten. Mek FLOW gweh! Garry Sinclair better tell di higher heads seh wi tired a di advantage tecking. FLOW ha fi do better dan dis. Or wi go a block dem up!

 

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

 

It luk laik se Garfield Sinclair lik im ed. Im a di man in chaaj a FLOW Jamaica. Im no si se di biga baas dem fi Liberty Global, we uon FLOW, a gi im baaskit fi kyari waata? Se dem waahn mek muor moni aafa wi. Di amount a kostama we a baal bout FLOW bad sorvis! An Liberty Global kuda a set fi wi, a plan fi riez prais? Nuo sa! Notn kudn go so.

digicel_logo_jamaica

Mek mi tek dat bak. Notn shudn go so. Bot dem av di angl an wi av di blied. So dem kyahn du eniting dem waahn. An nobadi kyaahn du notn bout it. Yes, wi kyahn swich tu Digicel. Ihn-ihn? Unu no ier se Digicel uo so moch moni, dem a luk moni fi bara fi pie aaf di moni dem uo? Det tap a det. Digicel kyaahn elp demself, moch muor wi. Dem a riez fi dem prais tu. Wach out! No beta puok; no beta baril.

Mi waahn nuo wa Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) a du bout FLOW an Digicel. An bai di wie, mi no wok fi di OUR. Mi taiyad fi piipl a iimiel mi a komplien bout FLOW an Digicel. Aal mi kyahn du a rait bout it. Unu fi iimiel OUR. An kaal dem. An kyari aan bad. Unu fi go demanschriet outsaid a OUR afis. Mek dem nuo se unu siiriyos. Unu waahn jostis!

Ier wa smadi iimiel an tel mi laas wiik. Im se FLOW gi im bout 2 wiik notis se dem a go riez dem fuon riet from $2.99 to $3.99. Digicel gi im 2 die notis se dem a go riez fi dem riet fram $2.95 tu $3.95. Unu si se FLOW an Digicel a sing di siem Sankey!

 

MI NO SARI FI DEM

 

Den azkaadn tu wan Gleaner aatikl we poblish pan Mie 17, ‘FLOW Jamaica hikes cable rates amid losses’. FLOW laas 533 milyan dala fi di fos chrii mont a disya ier. Mi no nuo a we dem go put dong dat de uol iip a moni kielis mek dem go laas di uol a it. Mi no sari fi dem. A wi mi sari fa. FLOW a dipen pan wi fi gi dem bak aal a di moni we dem laas. Enting kuda go so? A no wi rispans.

tvjMek mi tel unu bout fi mi FLOW kiebl sorvis. Mi kyaahn iivn get TVJ! Muos a di pruogram dem mi waahn wach aaf di ier. Yu si aal Stephen Colbert shuo. Dat a wan wikid kamidi shuo. A pyuur palitiks im diil wid. Wen im don wid di papishuo we a gwaahn iina Merika, yu wiik. Taak bout tek bad tings mek juok! Dat de chanel, 123, gaan. Mi a fi a wiet so til neks maanin fi kech Colbert shuo pan di Intanet.

An a no laik se FLOW a kot dem prais fi mek op fi aal a di chanel dem we gaan. Dem a riez di prais. Dem no a no kanshens. Jangkro nyam it out. So nou, wi a fi go pie muor fi les? If FLOW tingk se dem a laas moni nou, mek dem wiet so til wi go pan schraik an stap bai dem banduulu kiebl sorvis. A den dem a go laas moni. Mi kyan get TVJ fi notn. Mek FLOW gwe! Garry Sinclair beta tel di aiya edz se wi taiyad a di advaantij tekin. FLOW a fi du beta dan dis. Aar wi a go blak dem op!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

FLOW Has Nerve To Raise Prices

It seems as if Garfield Sinclair isn’t thinking straight.  He’s the man in charge of FLOW Jamaica. Can’t he see that his superiors at Liberty Global, who own FLOW, are asking him to do the impossible? Insisting that they want to make more off us.  There are so many customers complaining about FLOW’s bad service! And Liberty Global could actually be targetting us for a price increase? No sir! That simply couldn’t be true.

Let me take that back. That shouldn’t be true. But they have the handle and we have the blade. So they can do whatever they want. An nobody can do a thing about it. Yes, we can switch to Digicel. Really? Haven’t you heard that  Digicel is so deep in debt they’re trying to borrow more money to pay off their debts?   Debt on top of debt. Digicel can’t help themselves, let alone us. They are raising prices too. Watch out! We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

between-the-devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea

I’d like to know what the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is doing bout FLOW and Digicel. And by the way, I don’t work for the OUR. I’m tired of getting emails  complaining about FLOW and Digicel. All I can do is write about it. You all have to email the OUR. And call them. And make a lot of noise. And demonstrate outside the OUR office. Let them know you’re serious. You want justice!

Here’s an email I got last week. The writer said FLOW gave him  about 2 weeks notice that  the phone rate was going to be raised from $2.99 to $3.99. Digicel gave him 2 days notice that their rate was going up from $2.95 to $3.95. You can see that FLOW and Digicel are singing the same tune!

 

I’M NOT SORRY FOR THEM

 

Then according to a Gleaner article published on May 17, ‘FLOW Jamaica hikes cable rates amid losses’. FLOW lost 533 million dollars in the first quarter of this year. I don’t know where they could have carelessly placed all that money so that they’ve lost all of it. I’m not sorry for them. I’m sorry for us. FLOW is depending on us to get back all the money they’ve  lost. How can that be? We’re not responsible.

Let me tell you about my FLOW cable service. I can’t even get TVJ! Most of the programmes I want to watch are off the air. For example, the Stephen Colbert show. That’s a  wicked comedy.  He deals with just politics. When he’s done with all the nonsense that’s going on in the U.S, you’re weak. Talk about making fun of a bad situation! That channel, 123, gone. I have to wait until the next morning to catch Colbert on the Internet.

2012021556no_to_conscience-crAnd FLOW isn’t giving price cuts to compensate for all the missing channels. They’re hiking prices. They  have no conscience.  It’s completely eaten away. So now, we have to pay more for less? If FLOW thinks they’re losing money now, let them wait  until we go on strike and stop buying their erratic cable service. That’s when they’re going to lose money. I can get TVJ for free. Later for FLOW! Garry Sinclair had better tell his bosses that we’re tired of being exploited. FLOW has to do better than this. Or we’re going to block them up!

 

Who Is Regulating the OUR?

The director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), Ansord Hewitt, responded quite quickly to the four questions I emailed him about consumer protection in the telecoms sector. His email went to spam, so I didn’t see it until after I’d written last week’s column, ‘FLOW giveth and FLOW taketh away’.

It’s just as well. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the OUR adequately then. It needed a whole column. So here’s my first question: Can dissatisfied FLOW customers file a class-action suit against Liberty Global? The response:

“The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is not in a position to answer that question definitively, although, to be perfectly candid, we are reluctant to offer specific legal advice on what recourse is available through the courts, as much depends on the nature of the claim and the remedy sought. That said, however, we are not aware that a class-action suit is a recourse that is available in this jurisdiction.”

mumbo+jumbo2

That’s typical bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo; or sound legal advice. Take your pick! I say mumbo-jumbo. I wasn’t asking for a definitive answer or specific legal advice – just general guidelines. And, surely, the OUR should be ‘aware’ of whether or not a class-action suit can be filed in Jamaica.

My second question: If so, how? The response: “See response to question 1.” My third question was: Are there any laws that protect consumers against utility companies that fail to deliver the services for which they are paid? I got a very lengthy five-part response, covering all utilities. I can’t quote it in full.

Here’s the section that’s most relevant: “As regards the ICT sector for which the OUR’s remit is limited to voice telephony and data services, there are no existing guaranteed standards.” Really? We would never have guessed. The director general elaborates:

“The assumption after liberalisation was that given the robust competition that existed within the sector, most consumer’s issues [sic] would have been addressed via the competitive response. The indication, however, is that this has not been the experience of most customers and so there is need for further measures.”

A DISGUISED MONOPOLY?

Six-of-One-Half-a-Dozen-of-Another

The director general of the OUR is absolutely right. Consumer issues have not been solved by competition. Perhaps FLOW and Digicel aren’t really competitors. Could it be that they are actually a disguised monopoly? Six of one and half a dozen of the other! Or, to use a local idiom, both FLOW and Digicel giving us a six for a nine!

Mr Hewitt does promise a solution. I hope it’s not the proverbial comfort to a fool: “Consequently, the OUR, even while intervening on a case-by-case or situation-by-situation basis to address ICT customer concerns, is pursuing a number of initiatives to provide consumers with better options for redress. These are detailed as part of the response to question 4 below.”

My final question: If not, what is being done to put such laws in place? I got another five-part answer. Again, I cannot quote it in full. In essence, Mr Hewitt confirms that the OUR has actually proposed rules to guide the sector. But guess what?

“Drafting instructions for these rules have been passed to the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET) for submission to the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel who will convert them into regulations. Once these are promulgated, they will have the force of law and can be enforced by the OUR.”

The final version of the drafting instructions was submitted by the OUR only last month. Why has it taken so long for the regulatory process to get to this stage? Who is benefiting from the present state of affairs? Certainly not the consumer!

TELECOMS PIRATES

a-raja-pirate1Why have successive governments failed to pass appropriate legislation to protect us from the telecoms pirates? We cannot allow ourselves to be constantly raped by ‘service’ providers whose only intention is to hold down an tek weh. On Tuesday, I got an email with a link to a letter in the Barbados Nation, headlined ‘Paying for service I do not receive’. It was a familiar complaint against FLOW:

“I fully understand that I am one of thousands of Barbadians who complain daily about the services provided to them by FLOW. … I suspect, though, that this letter will not move FLOW to improve its services to their customers.”

I immediately emailed CARICOM’s Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) to ask what is being done about the long-standing problems with FLOW across the entire region. I got an earnest response from a spokesperson of the CTU, which included the following:

“The CTU would encourage regulators across the region to be more vigilant and firm in enforcing the provisions of the licence under which service providers operate. This is particularly so with the recent consolidation that is taking place since the liberalisation of the sector in the mid-1990s. Their emphasis must be heavily weighted in the consumer’s interest. They must ensure that the consumer is getting a fair deal at affordable cost.”

This was not reassuring. Encouragement is not enough. Regulatory bodies cannot function efficiently without the necessary legislation. When Liberty Global, the owners of FLOW, demands more money for its services, what is the Jamaican Government going to do? Raise taxes? Don’t get me started on that!

FLOW Giveth and FLOW Taketh Away

Blessed be the name of FLOW? Hell, no! FLOW isn’t giving the Jamaican consumer a damn thing. We are paying premium rates for a less-than-premium product. And something has got to be done about it. Last Wednesday, I’d had enough of FLOW’s bite-and-blow customer disservice.

I called the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to find out how dissatisfied customers could file a class-action suit against Liberty Global. Many of us don’t seem to know that it was Cable & Wireless that bought FLOW, not the other way around. I suppose some sensible executive realised that FLOW was a better brand than sour LIME and retained that name.

Liberty-Horizon-logo

And Liberty Global bought Cable & Wireless. A Gleaner article published on Friday, March 31 reports that, “Large cable operator Liberty Global, the owner of FLOW, wants its regional businesses to generate more cash, and has set them a target of US$1.5 billion.” We had better watch out. Liberty come from carelessness. We might soon be paying far more for even less.

MY FAIRY GODMOTHER

Both the general counsel and the director general of the OUR were in a meeting. I left my old LIME number, which is now working. Believe it or not, bright and early Sunday morning, I got a call from FLOW. It was my fairy godmother who said that a technician would be coming to fix my phone later that day.

I suppose I should have been happy that, after a month or so, the service was going to be restored. Instead, I was outraged. It seemed as if I was being given preferential treatment because of my column published that same day, ‘FLOW’s stagnant channels’.

I asked about all those other customers who are being exploited by FLOW. When are they going to get back service? And I referred to a tweet in response to the column: “All across Jamaica, sounds of ‘um huh’, in agreement with @karokupa.” The technician did come and left this note: “I found the problem on the pole and repaired same. Please call me if you have any queries. Thanks for your continued faith in us.”

faith-road-sign-with-dramatic-clouds-and-sky

Faith in FLOW? What’s faith got to do with it? FLOW is not a church. And many churches place a much higher premium on customer satisfaction than FLOW. They ensure direct access to God, who answers prayers.

According to the New Testament, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It seems as if it’s FLOW that has faith in us. The company seems to be hoping that in the absence of evidence that it is actually giving us what we pay for, we will stick with it until the end of time.

SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT

On Tuesday, my fairy godmother sent another technician to restore the channels that were temporarily off the air. The first question I asked was if the van was leaking oil. He said no. By the time he finished fixing the channels, there were patches of oil in the driveway. About a one-foot square! And talking of square, I must correct an error in last week’s column. I omitted ‘square’ in my summary of Einstein’s famous equation.

My ‘faith’ in FLOW didn’t last long. By Wednesday, there was a new problem. I had paid for a package on my old FLOW line that allowed me to make flat-rate land and cell calls to the US. When I tried to make a call, I got this message, “International calls are not permitted from this number.”

So now my options for making calls to the US were to pay extra from either my old LIME phone or my cell phone. How could this possibly be acceptable? After mi cuss two bad word, I called my fairy godmother. She promised to investigate the matter. Service was restored by Friday. Why should I need a fairy godmother?

That’s how I ended up calling the OUR. The director general returned my call and I followed up with an email in which I asked four questions: Can dissatisfied FLOW customers file a class-action suit against Liberty Global? If so, how? Are there any laws that protect consumers against utility companies that fail to deliver the services for which they are paid? If not, what is being done to put such laws in place? I haven’t got any answers as yet.

Then, I discovered that the following notice from FLOW does not tell the whole story: “Due to broadcast restrictions, we are unable to air the current programme on this channel. Please check your local listing to determine the availability of this programme on another channel.” You can certainly get programmes like ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ and ‘Modern Family’ on another channel. But definitely not on FLOW! Digicel bought the rights. Right under FLOW’s nose!

feet-wrapped-together-in-bed

By the way, Digicel is purchasing its off-island capacity to provide Internet service from FLOW. Since the companies are wrapped up in bed, you would think they could be generous enough to include all their customers in the happy union. And allow us access to all programmes! But, no! It’s all about competition. And the biggest loser is the customer. It seems as if the OUR needs to set up a Special Victims Unit to protect us from both Digicel and FLOW.