FORMER government minister and MP Austin "Jack" Warner was a surprise attendee at the Regulated Industries Commission's (RIC) public consultation on its proposed electricity rate increase on Tuesday evening at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya.
Warner accused the RIC of "selling dreams" to the population, as he addressed the open mic session of the first open-air public consultation.
The RIC has proposed increases for clients to pay for their electricity supply from TTEC and for bills to be paid monthly rather than bi-monthly as now obtains.
"I have come here with a heavy heart," Warner told the hearing. He said the proposed new rates were unconscionable for poor people.
He alleged that nowhere in the presentations by RIC officials had he heard anything about customers' interests.
Earlier, RIC executive director Glenn Khan said TTEC, when at fault, offered rebates to clients and payment schedules to hard-pressed clients.
Taking issue with a chart displayed by the RIC showing TT and Suriname having far cheaper electricity rates than a list of other Caribbean countries, as the commission sought to justify the proposed rate hike, Warner said those other countries with higher rates did not have oil and gas deposits as TT.
Warner lamented that certain government ministries owe TTEC huge amounts in electricity bills as he urged, "pay the bills before you come to poor people."
Earlier on Tuesday, RIC chairman Dawn Callender said in a TTT interview, "I think members of the public could take a certain amount of comfort that they are not being asked to settle the TTEC receivables."
Warner disagreed with TTEC's billing system whereby clients now pay 26 cents per kilowatt hours (kWh) for the first 400 kWh used, 32 cents for the next 400-1,000 kWh, and 37 cents for amounts above 1,000 kWh. Warner opined, "It should be the more you use, the less you pay."
He then alleged a failure by TTEC to compensate individuals for appliances damaged by current surges.
"I can't recall the last time TTEC fixed anybody's fridge or computer when the voltage was too high."
This claim was denied by Callender, saying she spoke from experience.
"I lost a television and applied to TTEC and I was compensated."
Warner said,"You get back money for your fridge but I can assure you nobody here."
"You are selling dreams!" Warner stormed in conclusion. The RIC will soon hold more public hearings in Arima and Tobago.