COCI to community of St. Maarten: submit damage claims due to GEBE outages

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce is cognizant of the fact that the performance (failure in performance) of NV GEBE requires actions to be undertaken.

No business can survive with poor service performance, unless you have a monopoly and your customers have no choice. In St. Maarten, we have, through the years, been faced with the erratic, unsound, and unreliable utility provisioning by NV GEBE. This company has never provided a valid explanation for its failures, nor has its advertisements of better service ever resulted in such. Rats, sabotage, seaweed, water have been mentioned as a cause through the years, however, all of those causes should have resulted in adequate solutions.

Our answer to this situation was not to hold this company and the Government, which is the ultimate responsible entity to provide its citizens with utilities, accountable but to invest in surge protectors, inverters and generators. Whilst these investments were being made, some at a greater cost than others, no one questioned the fact that the NV GEBE bills presented monthly in no form or fashion reflected the actual hours of service provisioning. If the bills were questioned the response was that because of the outage the consumption actually increased when the utility was restored.

Those who were brave to present damage claims were also confronted with the so-called small letters or the general terms and conditions excluding all liabilities, or were told that they should have protected their goods with a surge protector.

In recent days, we have contended with the very best performance of NV GEBE yet, with days where the utility would be interrupted almost every 10 minutes. The complaints and frustrations are voiced, but no action is undertaken.

We seem to accept this mediocre performance and reward it as well with payment of our bill, fearing a disconnection. In fact we are being disconnected daily even when we have paid in full or on time. This performance is not a norm, and should never be accepted as a norm, for then no improvement can ever be expected.

In the many years of its existence it is unfathomable how this entity still struggles to do what it is supposed to do.

The effects on our daily lives and economy is immense. Loss of equipment, including those surge protectors and back-up UPS devices, loss of business is a direct result of these outages, yet the gravity of this damage is not recorded.

Restaurants have a difficult time serving customers and may face compliance issues with food preparation requirements; Salons may lose customers as no one wants to risk a half done hairdo; Telecommunication companies with interrupted services to customers due to the outages; Medics and medical centers may have incorrect/non- functioning equipment having reduced capacity to provide the health care required, etc. Without recording this damage, NV GEBE may not be held accountable for its failures successfully.

COCI is therefore calling on the community of St. Maarten to make known their damage claims. Please submit to COCI the claim you envision to have, comprising of your name, details on the damage suffered, the value of the damage, the date when the damage occurred, and the reason why the damage is a direct result of the outages of NV GEBE.

Submissions can be done at the COCI Biz Center C.A. Cannegieter Street 11, Philipsburg St. Maarten, or e-mailed to our Biz Center representative Mr. A. Brown at a.brown@chamberofcommerce.sx.

Please note that we will not file your claim with NV GEBE and seek restitution for you. Filing this information with us will, however, permit us to assess and support the impact of NV GEBE on our daily lives and economy, so proper action can be formulated and taken for a definite solution.