Justice and Public Safety

Consumer Advocate

Introduction/Overview

In accordance with section 117 of the Public Utilities Act, RSNL 1990, Chapter P-47, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint a Consumer Advocate to represent the interests of domestic and general service customers in response to applications from public utilities. In accordance with section 61 of the Automobile Insurance Act, RSNL 1990, Chapter A-22 the Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint a consumer advocate for the purposes of a matter before the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities. Finally, in accordance with section 3.1(8) of the Insurance Companies Act, RSNL 1990, Chapter I-10, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint a consumer advocate for the purposes of a review by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities. Section 3.1(1) of the Act provides that the Lieutenant Governor in Council may by order direct the board to conduct a review of any aspect of insurance in the province on the terms and conditions that may be specified.

Appointments of consumer advocates are ad hoc in that each application or review, as the case may be, results in the appointment. Recently the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has agreed to appoint the consumer advocate prior to the filing of the application where practicable. The Board of Commissioners has encouraged, in appropriate cases, a pre-application process whereby information concerning the nature of the application can be shared and details concerning the hearing process to be undertaken can be agreed. This approach aims to reduce the length of hearings and make the application process more efficient. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has also agreed to appoint the consumer advocate for a standing, one-year term to represent the public interest in other matters coming before the Board of Commissioners which do not require or result in formal hearings.

In performing his or her duties the Consumer Advocate may retain such experts and consultants as may be reasonably required. The costs of the Consumer Advocate are initially borne by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities and subsequently charged to the public utility or insurer(s) making the application or involved in the review as the case may be.

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