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    Electrical damage, between lights and shadows

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    Daños eléctricos, entre luces y sombras

    That afternoon-night, when Misdalys López Marrero rushed out of her bathroom after noticing the flickering of the lights, she had already sensed the worst of her fears; minutes later the refrigerator machine would confirm it, by not starting at all.

    The next morning she plugged it back in and nothing…it wouldn't turn on. She immediately called the Electric Company to make her complaint. She was not the only one with the problem, as several of her neighbors on Caridad Street, in the city of Ciego de Ávila, also reported damage to their appliances.

    A typical example, of those occasions when the voltage rises and at the same time the concerns of many who are going to check if any of their equipment "burned". And although such fluctuations, which are also downward, last only seconds, the negative consequences can last for days or even months.

    If the solution time (compensation, repair and replacement) in 2020 behaved in the range of 32 days on average, in the past year it rose significantly to 55 days, based on the negative epidemiological situation in the main municipality, since July, which made it impossible to have the services of Copextel for the opinion of the refrigeration equipment.

    The possibility of the occurrence of damage to property caused by the Electricity Company's service to its customers is always latent in the event of the slightest disturbance in the networks perceived in homes, sometimes attributable to the entity, other times not so much.

    Causes, triggers and some clarifications

    Precisely, among the grounds that are valid for your claim are those effects on the electrical service reported to the Electric Company, and those due to circuit opening and closing operations without a time greater than three minutes; false contact of the "neutral" of the network, as well as wear and lack of maintenance of the materials and equipment of the distribution facilities.

    In the last of the sections, it is no secret that the country's tense financial situation for several years, together with the intensification of the USA blockade, as well as affecting the normal performance of the main generation units in the country, has slowed down the acquisition of essential elements for safety and quality of service, such as voltage transformers or UDC devices (universal distribution connectors), which guarantee a corrosion-free connection, protected against temperature variations and overloads in the connections of the consumer.

    However, Resolution 400 on August 2021 amending the Regulation for Attention to Claims for Damage to Property of Residential and Non-Residential Clients derived from anomalies in the supply of electrical energy, issued by the general director of the Electric Union; specifies that those claims caused by atmospheric discharges, catastrophes, natural disasters, penetrations of the sea, strong winds, automobile accidents, unauthorized manipulation of the Electric Company's installations and damage to the interior electrical installations of the property are not considered.

    Besides, the company will not compensate when refrigerators whose machines have been repaired and do not have a guarantee from state workshops are damaged (as long as it is the only damaged equipment), damage caused by voltage variations triggered by operating welding equipment in your home or nearby facilities, of homes and services that are on clotheslines, due to manipulation or reconnection of the energy meter meter, and trees on private land.

    Data and procedures

    The phenomenon by Ciego de Ávila`s properties brought figures until the end of the year 2021 of a total of 121 property damages with 194 files and 574 pieces of equipment (of which, almost 47 percent correspond to lighting), equivalent to an index of 3.3 for each 1,000 clients; based on reports provided by the Base Business Unit (UEB) Comprehensive Customer Service Center (CIAC) of the Territory's Electric Company.

    Gricel Rivas Hernández, director of the aforementioned entity, told Invasor that although much remains to be done to improve these indicators, with respect to the end of 2020, progress is noted, especially in the damage index that fell 0.8 point, despite municipalities such as the capital and Venezuela exceeded the provincial average.

    Daños eléctricos, entre luces y sombras

    Control actions have allowed the damage to not increase, but the resources to provide this necessary maintenance are not always available and therefore they inevitably occur.

    Many Cubans, with the marked occurrence of blackouts during mid-2021, were overwhelmed by the shock of how the current would arrive or that phenomenon that some have named as the "take it off and put it on." But contrary to what one might imagine, such events in themselves do not cause damage, unless they bring about a disturbance in the normal functioning of the network, according to specialists.

    It would then be a connect-disconnect the equipment from its outlet, but the alert is always present. The protocol to be followed establishes that, once the client has reported the complaint, the dispatcher gives the electrical guard operators the data of the affected people to carry out the measurements on the spot, immediately.

    After reviewing the causes and conditions that caused the incident, in addition to the removal of the damaged goods, the commission created for this purpose, made up of directors and specialists from the Electricity Company, proceeds to prepare a sworn statement, through a model established for these cases, in which the client exposes the damaged equipment.

    The technical area specialist will certify the effects and, at the same time, will warn about the importance of the veracity of the information offered, since in the event of a ruse or deception, the entire file is dismissed. The regulation is clear in this regard.

    The next step for the client in question would be to go personally to the UEB or the corresponding commercial office within three business days after the negative event, to notify him of the property damage claim ruling and sign the file prepared in case from which it comes.

    Moreover, if not, what to do, where does the client turn if he still feels right? How not to feed suspicions in a process in which the defendant acts in most of its procedures as judge and party?

    It is true that the records of the complaints remain in the telephone center, and the data on the behavior of the network in the provincial cargo office, or that, in many cases, the review of damaged appliances is carried out by a third entity, but even so there may be loopholes for doubt.

    Some wonder, with good reason, why their affected equipment does not fall into the category of attributable damage, if the voltage variation was felt in several neighboring houses or if after the sizzle of the nearby transformer came the fatal outcome, even after immediately report the cause.

    In case the client disagrees with the opinion of the commission, he can then claim the general director of the provincial Electricity Company; if your dissatisfaction persists, you can refer to the general director of the Electric Union (UNE) and, if you continue to be dissatisfied, you can refer to the judicial process.

    At the end of 2021, of the 67 property damage complaints received by the UEB CIAC, only three of them were correct, and, of the latter, two were dissatisfied with the value of the check. Numbers that speak of an action according to the procedures; customer complaints at the request of the UNE during the previous three years are minimal and given without reason.

    About solutions and payments

    Misdalys, the commission created by the Electric Company treated her very well at all times in light of her situation in the middle of last year, she has no complaints in this regard. Nevertheless, at that time there were no refrigerators to replace, nor was there the possibility of repairing it in any workshop and then he received, in accordance, the 12,125.00 pesos that they gave him for the damage caused.

    The solution came, despite not being the happiest for her. “I accepted the money because if I reject it I am left with nothing. Changing that amount of national currency to MLC (freely convertible currency) was and is insufficient, now even more so with the street price, to buy a new one in stores in foreign currency.”

    Since then, Misdalys has kept that money on her magnetic card, waiting to find someone who will roll up the machine for her (German and unopened, from a team that, due to its reliability, did not want to change when the Energy Revolution and to know how much more; her neighbor next door went through the same thing, but was not entitled to monetary compensation because that device had already been repaired previously.

    "Luckily my sister lent me another cold, but when she needs it, what do I do?" This woman close to retirement age told Invasor with a voice full of uncertainty.

    The repair of the appliance is always the first option to consider, but, if it is not possible, the ways for compensation are from: the replacement of a piece of equipment with similar benefits or equal value of those existing in the network of stores retailers, in CUP or in USD through transfer to the personal bank account of the claimant associated with a magnetic card in MLC of the price of the establishment in the establishments that sell to the population in that currency.

    This option was opened in the final months of 2021 from the entry into force of Resolution 400, more in line with the economic reality of the country, of monetary order and shortages of products in shopping centers in national currency.

    This fact means that the solutions have been different throughout the year, perhaps in several cases not the most desired by the client, in the face of legislation that came a little late to give the possibility of compensation closer to a reality far removed from the official change of CADECA imposed since January 2021. Despite such details, in mid-January of this year only about 21 affected luminaires remained to be replaced.

    The truth is that, by concept of compensation for checks, the Avilanian Electricity Company executed a total of 855,000.00 pesos, equivalent to 40.33 percent of its plan, while in review and diagnosis it was 148,100.00 pesos (on the 29th, 62 percent of the expected item). Figures that, according to Eduardo Cruz Mata, main specialist in Attention to the Population, do not offer a reliable comparison criterion with previous years, given the changes introduced by the Planning Task.

    To which Gricel Rivas Hernández adds that the percentages below the projections are due, to a large extent, to the low incidence of extreme weather events during the year, because after their occurrence, elements such as the connections suffer from the impact of the intense rains and strong winds, and, due to the lack of resources for maintenance, several weeks later they cause false contacts that increase the damage.

    In the end, they constitute steps in a chain in which both the company and the client do not want to be involved. At that point, the adjustment to the procedures and acting with justice will be the word of order at all times to find the most appropriate solution between the parties.