Posts Tagged ‘energy’

EDF to pay out £3 million in compensation

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

EDF 280 549370a EDF to pay out £3 million in compensationEDF Energy have been gits and Ofgem has slapped their legs by ordering them to pay £3 million in compensation to benefit “vulnerable customers” after they’d been found guilty of breaching complaint handling rules.

The investigation followed an increase of more than 30% in the levels of complaints recorded by the company during the the introduction of a new IT system in 2011.

Ofgem found that, between May 2011 and January 2012, EDF didn’t have sufficient or correct procedures in place to adequately deal with, process, record and receive, all complaints in accordance with handling rules.

In English, that means customers had unacceptably long waiting times when calling them to tell EDF they are rubbish.

And if you wanted them to follow up your complaint, that wasn’t happening either.

When customers finally got through, EDF didn’t even make a record of all the required details for the complaints. Basically, customers may as well stuck their hand out of the window and tried to finger the moon.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner for enforcement, said: “EDF Energy failed to have sufficiently robust processes in place when they introduced a new IT system and this led to the unacceptable handling of complaints. Their commitment to putting things right and paying £3m to the Citizens Advice Energy Best Deal Extra scheme and the Plymouth Citizen Advice Bureau’s Debt Helpline to benefit vulnerable customers is a step in the right direction to rebuilding consumer trust.”

energy Labour say theyre going rough up the energy companiesThe licences that energy companies have, so they can do business, could be revoked by a new regulating body who are there to protect the interests of the public.

That sounds alright doesn’t it? Sadly, this won’t ever happen because Labour are doing that thing where they say ‘when we get in power, we’re going to do all this amazing stuff’, when they know that they won’t get voted in, so they don’t have to actually implement anything.

They might as well say: ‘Under a Labour government, honest, hard working people can be certain that each town and city will have a unicorn mayor that shits £50 notes for everyone and each home will be fitted with a milkshake tap.’

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said the current Government had helped to create a “broken energy market”.

She reckons that Labour will create a tough new regulator who will manhandle power suppliers and have the ability to cancel energy firms’ licences if they repeatedly commit the most “serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers”.

Flint is obviously playing to the gallery here, as everyone knows that we’re all irritated by the way the energy companies are currently doing their business thanks to crappy customer service, mis-selling, whacking prices up when they feel like it and all the rest.

Ofgem have issued 30 fines since 2001, which total in advance of £87m. That’s a lot of money to us, but presumably, energy firms have that kind of money down the back of the sofa in loose change.

Flint says that Labour’s reforms would see the regulator producing an annual scorecard for energy suppliers, reporting on the firms’ performance and identifying problem areas.

“The public have a right to be treated fairly by energy companies,” she said. ”Where firms fail to meet these standards, there must be tough and decisive action. Too often energy companies seem to view the regulator’s fines as a cost of doing business – not as a warning to get their act together.”

“Of course consumers must be compensated – but if energy companies persist in mistreating their customers they must know their licence could be on the line.”

energy Customers waving cheerio to big six energy companiesTwo million customers have said “see ya!” to the UK energy market’s big six companies, and opting for smaller and cheaper companies.

Independent figures claim to show droves of households switching their energy supplier as the price of energy carries on going up.

Approximately 100,000 customers a month have swapped over from the big boys to an indie since last June. Snubbing the likes of npower, SSE, EDF, E.ON, Scottish Power and British Gas.

And according to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 1.3 million customers and 866,000 gas customers have changed suppliers in the last three months of 2013.

And as if to rub it in, by switching his gas and electricity supplier to a company exempt from the charges slapped on domestic bills, Energy Secretary Ed Davey  is now spared from paying the average £112-a-year green duty added to most domestic bills after he moved his account to a firm that does not have to pay it.

Maybe he should be doing something about stopping the Big Six being arseholes then, eh readers?

sam laidlaw It doesnt look like British Gas are going to lower energy prices... There’s tough talk at British Gas after yesterday’s 26% profit slide.

CEO Sam Laidlaw has been laying into Ofgem, saying that their estimate for the amount of profit BG stand to make from the average household this coming year (£106) is wrong.

He said it’s actually closer to £40 – 20% down on last year – and got very shirty indeed. It also didn’t appear to be making any moves to cut energy tariffs. WHAT A SURPRISE.

Laidlaw stroked his Arctic fox trimmed lapels, turned over in his bath of Cristal and said:

The Ofgem analysis is a theoretical analysis. What we are actually publishing today is the actual facts. We have been in discussions with Ofgem for a number of years about this methodology, which has its deficiencies and they recognise that it needs to be changed.’

But quibbling over Ofgem’s calculations doesn’t alter the fact that the warm weather was to blame for their slide in profits, and that they still have a responsibility to lower their prices so that customers don’t end up overpaying and in penury as a result.

Ricardo Lloyd from Which! issued his usual robotic statement, but it doesn’t look like anyone at BG will be listening. He said:

‘British Gas profits are down because of a warm winter, not lower prices.Energy companies must do everything they can to pass on any savings to their customers including falling wholesale and network costs.’

Shadow energy minister Jonathan Reynolds said that the energy market wasn’t working and added:

‘Britain’s hard-pressed bill-payers have seen their energy bills rocket, despite falling wholesale costs, while David Cameron sits on his hands and repeatedly fails to stand up to the big energy companies.’

The results of this CMA profits investigation can’t come soon enough, eh?

British Gas profits down by over a quarter

July 31st, 2014 2 Comments By Lucy Sweet

british gas British Gas profits down by over a quarter Oh dear – seems there’s trouble at t’energy mill – namely at British Gas, who announced a profit slide of 26% in the first half of this year.

BG are blaming the mild weather for the slump. CEO Sam Laidlaw put down his chalice of claret and medium rare Wagyu steak and said:

‘With challenging trading conditions on both sides of the Atlantic in the first half, earnings will be lower in 2014 than in 2013. However, the group is well positioned to return to growth in 2015.’

However, operating profits dropping by a quarter is quite a big deal, isn’t it? And this is despite Ofgem arguing that energy suppliers are making more profit than ever off the average home – it goes up to £106 per household this year.

As the Big Six are coming under increasing pressure over household bills, not to mention the massive investigation into profits by the CMA, things must be getting a bit heated at BG.

Do we feel sorry for them that their profits are down?

Sorry, we can’t hear you for the cheering…

ofgem logo1 Energy bills to fall by £12 a year – maybe Rejoice, rejoice! It looks like we’re set to save…er…£12 a year on our energy bills thanks to new Ofgem rules to cap spending on British power networks. We’re rich! Rich beyond our wildest dreams!

Ofcom has approved a £17bn upgrade for the UK’s electricity networks over the next eight years – but customers will save because the budget is lower than the energy companies have previously been allowed to spend.

£111 of our annual fuel bill is currently set aside to pay for network upgrading and maintenance. Ofgem say this will drop to £99 under the new cap.

But not everybody will save the same amount. It depends on what company runs the power network in your area. In the North West you could be getting a saving of £26, while customers in the South East might only get a piddling £5.

And also there’s no actual guarantee we’ll see this mythical £12 saving at all, as apparently private companies are quibbling with Ofgem about other aspects of the bill.

But, you know, we’ll take what we can get. Now all we have to do is find something to spend this imaginary £5-26 (or maybe £12 on). But don’t go mad at the shops, because you might not get it at all.

Ain’t life grand?

sse Its payback time for SSE after winter storm cock ups Ofgem has slapped SSE and UK Power Networks on the wrist for their inept handling of last year’s winter storm damage, and ordered them to pay out an extra £3.3million to the people affected – that’s on top of the £4.7m they’ve already paid.

Ofgem added that they would be doubling the minimum amount energy companies should pay out for storm-a-geddon power fails and warned that energy companies need to pull their fingers out and get their customers re-connected more efficiently.

They said that SSE and UKPN ‘could have done more to get customers reconnected faster and to keep them better updated on what was happening.’

Last year, thousands of SSE customers were reduced to shivering in the dark and huddling around a candle on Christmas Eve, but Ofgem said although SSE and UKPN were specifically and adversely affected by the weather, they were a bit crap at fixing things.

Meanwhile, SSE has reported a loss of 110,000 customers over the last three months. But they’re still not exactly cash strapped. It’s reporting a slight rise in earnings per share.

Will the Big Six profit bandwagon ever be derailed? Only the Competition and Markets Authority knows the answer…

energy Competition watchdog publishes report on energy marketThe folks at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have published their report into the energy market.

Are you all set to have your mind blown? Ready to be told things that will make you scream with glee that someone is on your side?

The CMA have identified opaque pricing, the dominance of utilities and an uncompetitive retail market as the main negative factors of the industry.

Doesn’t that feel amazing? Finally, someone is sticking up for us all! They’ve translated our feelings into a succinct report! And, obviously, we should hand the CMA a degree in stating the bleedin’ obvious.

Their investigation into the energy market isn’t finished yet and they’ll publish a final one before Christmas Day in 2015.

“We are looking to identify the underlying causes, at both wholesale and retail level, which could be leading to the widespread concerns that have surrounded this market in recent years – including rising energy bills, service quality, profitability and uncertainty over future investment,” said Roger Witcomb, chairman of the Energy Market Investigation Group.

The CMA statement said they’d spotted “four candidate theories of harm” which explain how market characteristics were adversely affecting competition. Shall we break them down?

- Opaque prices and low-level liquidity in wholesale power and gas create barriers to entry in retail and generation.

   - Vertically integrated electricity companies harm the competitive position of non-integrated firms to the detriment of customers.

   - Market power in electricity generation leads to higher prices.

   - “Energy suppliers face weak incentives to compete in retail markets, due in particular to inactive customers, supplier behaviour and/or regulatory interventions.”

So in short, the Big Six aren’t keen on telling us how they come up with their prices, there’s not enough competition to get the prices down, it is too hard for new energy companies to start up and people can’t be bothered to switch suppliers because they’re all rubbish. You knew that. Everyone knew that.

“This is a market which is very complex so it is important at an early stage to focus the investigation on the most relevant issues,” said Witcomb.

energy Ofgem say not switching energy companies is costing you £200mThe people at Ofgem have done a study which says the 9 million people renting in the UK are losing out to the tune of £200 million. They say renters are less likely to shop around, so they’re getting stiffed on deals.

This data was gathered from Ofgem’s incredibly exciting ’2014 Consumer Engagement survey’ which showed that three-quarters of tenants have never switched supplier and one in five isn’t aware that they are able to.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem’s CEO, said: “The number of British households renting stands at 9 million and counting, yet research has shown that this group is not shopping around for their energy, and missing out on savings of up to £200.”

Their maths, not ours, just in case any of you lot start moaning.

Weirdly, it seems that there’s a lot of people out there who think they are stuck with the energy supplier who provide their utilities on the day they move in. Even if your landlord takes care of the bills and your rent is all-inclusive, you can still shop around and ask them to go cheaper if you want.

This is all part of Ofgem’s “Be an Energy Shopper” campaign, which hopes to help consumers realise that they aren’t in a situation that is akin to an energy company chaining them to a radiator and waiting for Stockholm Syndrome to kick in.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, said: “These findings are worrying, particularly given the dramatic rise in the number of people having to rent as they can’t afford to get onto the property ladder. Renters need all the help they can get to keep costs down and switching energy provider is an extremely easy way to reduce their monthly bills.”

“Ofgem’s campaign to clear up tenants’ misconceptions about their rights is a step in the right direction, but more should be done. We call on landlords and letting agents to provide all new tenants with information on their current energy provider and remind them of their right to switch. This will empower renters to make an informed choice about who provides their energy.”

Surprise! npower complaints double!

July 10th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Surprise! npower complaints double!You’ll probably die of shock when you find out that complaints about npower and Scottish Power doubled in the first quarter of 2014, so we can only pray that you were sitting down when you found out.

It seems new billing systems have caused all kinds of problems for customers, but really, there would’ve been complaints either way because, especially in the case of npower, it looks like they’re actively trolling everyone now.

Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland said complaints about npower rose from 306.8 for every 100,000 customers to 592, in the last quarter of 2013. In fact, complaints about all suppliers increased in the first quarter. They really couldn’t care less could they? They can afford the fines and no-one is looking like they’re going to do anything about it.

Have the Big Six got blackmail files on Cameron and Clegg? Dirty Polaroids and taped conversations with sex-workers or something? That’s the only explanation for their Teflon state of mind.

Last month, Ofgem warned npower to sort out their billing balls-ups by the close of August, or stop all telesales activity. Ofgem are also investigating npower’s failings as a whole, but you get the impression that between the CA and Ofgem, npower will work a way around it.

The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, said: “The knock-on effect of poor billing systems can turn household budgets upside down. Many people do not have the spare cash to cover the cost of a large bill that suddenly lands on their doorstep.”

“While we recognise npower is receiving more complaints because it is starting to get over some of the earlier issues, it needs to do more to stop consumers’ problems escalating. Offering repayment plans and discussing ways they can help consumers will nip issues in the bud and remove the need to complain.”

“Scottish Power has an opportunity to learn from other suppliers’ billing system failures and address these problems now so more consumers won’t have cause for complaint.”

“A rise in complaints about all suppliers is concerning. Suppliers won’t win the trust of customers back unless they show they understand what consumers need, recognise the financial pressures many people are under and are able to sort out problems quickly. This is something that all suppliers can act on.”

We’re going to pay for Britain’s repairs

July 1st, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

energy Were going to pay for Britains repairsBritain’s infrastructure is looking a bit tatty, so our beloved government have to carry out an independent assessment of the ability of us lot, to see if we can afford to cough-up the extra £250bn which will be added to our household bills modernise the things that give us water and energy.

Above inflation increases means we’re all going to get hammered, especially people on lower incomes.

It will be of zero surprise to anyone with at least one eye and a handful of rudimentary braincells that Britain needs major upgrades to services like energy, water, communications and transport.

The government think that energy bills will rise by 18% by 2030, because obviously, they haven’t gone up enough already.

Margaret Hodge, Labour MP said: “No one seems to be sticking up for the consumer in all this. This is of particular concern given that the poorest households are hit hardest by increases in bills. Poorer households spend more of their incomes on household bills relative to richer households, meaning that funding infrastructure through bills is more regressive than doing so through taxation.”

Hodge’s committee’s report – the excitingly titled ‘Investment: the impact on consumer bills’, Hodge said: “A staggering £375bn of investment is needed to replace the country’s ageing infrastructure, help meet policy commitments such as climate change targets, and meet the long-term needs of a growing population. It is the consumer – through their various bills – that is expected to fund at least two-thirds of this investment where the infrastructure is financed, built, owned and operated by private companies. Currently, consumers rely solely on government and regulators to protect their interests. But it doesn’t take much nous to work out that this is going to have a tough impact on the consumer.”

The short version is this: Wages aren’t going up, but everything else is.

The Treasury countered arguments against them and said: “The country will pay a heavy price if we don’t invest in the infrastructure essential for our future. The National Infrastructure Plan provides unprecedented certainty about what those investments are and making sure they are built in a way that delivers value for consumers and taxpayers is at the centre of it. The analysis in the PAC report fails to make a proper assessment of this.”

You can only assume that the only ‘unprecedented certainty’ in all of this is that those who win the contracts to take on all this work will have a strong connection to the Prime Minister and his pals, because that’s how all the big jobs are divvied out.

energy bills 300x300 ‘Once and for all’ energy investigation begins It’s a day of reckoning for the money grabbing energy companies, as Ofgem has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate their profits and prices.

The referral means there’ll be some serious explaining to do and the investigation is due to start immediately.

*rubs hands with glee*

Every member of the Big Six – British Gas, SSE, Npower, EDF, Scottish Power and E. On – will be crapping themselves as the probe tries to determine ‘once and for all’ whether they are making excess profits.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem chief executive, said: ‘Prices have risen more than they should have, we believe, over the last few years. Profits have risen, prices have risen, margins have risen.
Competition is not working well, consumers are probably paying more than they should have and we need to put in step a process that is going to force competition to drive costs down.’

The investigation will take about a year, and if they find that the Big Six have ripped customers off, the companies will be broken up, and all those energy fat cats will have to go on the scrounge.

If the companies were right, and wholesale prices, energy infrastructure and all that jazz were driving the price rises all along, we’ll have to find something else to moan about.

But something tells us they’ll only have to take one look at all those Chateaubriand dinners and enormous pay packets, and the decision will be clear…

emoticon Smiley faces can be used to help cut energy bills Because we’re all stupid apes, apparently our subconscious responds to smiley face or sad face emoticons. And equally, we all have an innate desire to keep up with the Jones’.

A study by Sustainable Homes used both emojis and good old fashioned shame to encourage people to use less energy – giving them a smiley if they’d saved and a sad face if they’d left the iron, the hairdryer and the oven on all night.

And it worked.

In the study – which recruited 450 households over 14 housing associations in England – people saved up to £80 on their bills when they were shown the emoticons based on their household energy use.

They were sent smileys if they used less energy than other similar households, and sad faces if they were using more. The ones that were using more were so ashamed that they soon started to use less, to keep within the norm.

Andrew Eagles of Sustainable Homes said: ”These findings will be of great interest to anyone concerned with cutting energy bills – which, of course, is most of us. We know that people are always keen to save money, but what this study uncovers is that their natural desire for approval is at least as important, and probably more so.”

So sod the scare stories about climate change – just compare people to their neighbours and watch those meters stop spinning…

Shock as Big Six complaints soar

June 18th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

article 1725351 07264249000005DC 817 468x286 300x183 Shock as Big Six complaints soarYou’re never going to believe this – the number of complaints against the Big Six energy firms have gone through the roof to new records in the last quarter as customers vent spleen over lousy service from our beloved energy companies.

They really are just trolling everyone now aren’t they?

They received 1.7 million complaints, which is the highest number in a single quarter since records began, up 15% on the same time last year.

The swine at npower received 83 complaints for every 1,000 customers in the first quarter of 2014 (they topped the league). The same time last year, they were getting 49 complaints per 1,000. Looks like they’re trying to double the amount of complaints, eh? Meanwhile, SSE, British Gas and E.On all received roughly 30 complaints per 1,000 customers. Scottish Power received the fewest with 13 for every 1,000.

Of course, Which!!! had something to say on the matter.

Their executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Yet again millions of customers are being let down by poor service from the Big Six energy companies. This has to change.”

“If they want to improve the low level of consumer trust in the energy market, suppliers must up their game now, rather than wait for the results of a competition review.”

Now, for the laughs. An Energy UK spokesman said, without a trace of irony: “Most customers are happy with their energy provider. But, in an industry which serves 27 million households, sometimes things can go wrong. Most issues just take just a call to fix even though all problems – large and small – are lumped together. But all problems, no matter how minor, are important and if a customer has any concerns about their service, they should contact their supplier as soon as they can.”

“No one wants to see complaints rise, but the industry uses this information to improve its service. Anyone with a problem needs to contact their supplier before they do anything else.”

Energy switch time to be cut in half

June 16th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

energy Energy switch time to be cut in halfOfgem have confirmed that the time it takes to ditch one energy company and sign-up with another will be cut in half. They’ve sat everyone from the industry down and switching times will fall to three days plus a 14-day cooling off period from December 31st.

From 2018, we’ll all be able to do next-day switching.

In itself, the move isn’t a bad one. If you think you can save money by losing one company and getting in bed with another, this is good news.

Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: “Consumers can change their bank in seven days, their mobile phone in just a couple, but have to wait significantly longer to switch their energy supplier. We hope this will give consumers more confidence to get out there and start shopping around.”

At the moment, it takes over a month to complete the process. The energy companies need to update their IT so this can come into play.

Ann Robinson at uSwitch.com, thinks this is a good idea, saying: “Today’s announcement is exactly the sort of game-changer that is needed to encourage consumers to engage with the energy market. By speeding up the time it takes to switch energy supplier, households will feel the benefits of moving to a new tariff even sooner.”

“With half of households yet to switch their energy supplier, it is clear there are barriers that need to be broken down. For many of these, it will be a question of confidence and fear of the unknown.”

However, the thing staring everyone in the face (everyone, in this instance, doesn’t include anyone from the energy sector, Ofgem or uSwitch, it seems) is that, if all the energy companies are ripping everyone off and constantly hiking up their prices, a fast turnaround time is little more than giving consumers the opportunity to get to know more dickheads, quickly.

It’s a bit like getting the option to recover from a cold quicker, in return for getting an STD.