Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards

Ofgem Standards of Conduct
In August 2013 Ofgem put new Standards of Conduct into place. They require suppliers and any organisations that represent them, such as brokers or third party intermediaries, to ensure that each domestic customer is treated fairly. They cover three broad areas:

Behaviour:
suppliers must behave and carry out any actions in a fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.

Information:
suppliers must provide information (whether in writing or orally) which is:

  • complete, accurate and not misleading (in terms of the information provided or omitted);
  • communicated in plain and intelligible language;
  • related to products or services that are appropriate to the customer to whom it is directed; and
  • fair both in terms of its content and in terms of how it is presented (with more important information being given appropriate prominence).

Process:
the supplier must:

  • make it easy for the consumer to contact them;
  • act promptly and courteously to put things right when they make a mistake;
  • otherwise ensure that customer service arrangements and processes are complete, thorough, fit for purpose and transparent.

Four “core” tariffs per fuel (electricity and gas) will be the limit that any supplier can offer. This will apply to each payment type. Suppliers will be allowed to offer these tariffs to collective switching schemes. They will also be able to offer extra fixed term tariffs into schemes that meet their criteria.

Standing charge and a single unit rate for all tariffs and suppliers can set the standing charge at zero if they wish

Dual fuel and online account management discounts remain. They will not be considered as “core tariffs” but as a discount. They will be simplified and will apply uniformly across all tariffs as £/pence per year. For example, a supplier would be able to offer a direct debit customer a choice of no more than four electricity and four gas tariffs. The customer could then choose a dual fuel discount and an online account management   discount.

Existing, expensive “dead tariffs” (i.e. tariffs that are no longer marketed) – customers must be transferred onto the cheapest variable rate. A supplier will only be able to keep consumers on dead tariffs if they are cheaper, or as cheap, as the supplier’s lowest standard or evergreen tariff.

Ban from increasing prices on fixed term deals or making other changes to fixed term tariffs (except trackers or structured price increases set out in advance which are fully in line with consumer protection law).

Ban from rolling forward household customers onto fixed term contracts without their consent.

42-49 day window before customers’ end date of their fixed term tariff for them to decide if they want to stay with the supplier or switch.

Requirement to give all customers personalised information on the cheapest tariff offered for them. This information will appear on each bill and on a range of other customer communications.

All information suppliers send to consumers is to be simplified, more engaging and personalised to them.

Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR) – all suppliers’ communications to provide “at a glance” information to help customers compare tariffs. The TCR will be similar to the APR comparison rate used with credit cards. Ofgem is also requiring suppliers to provide personalised estimates which take account of a customer’s usage to enable them to compare tariffs more accurately when switching.

Tariff information label will set out key terms and conditions as well as relevant information to help consumers compare across suppliers.

Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards
The Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards are guaranteed standards of service levels that must be met by each distribution company. The Direction was made by GEMA and took effect in October 2010. These standards have been set to guarantee a level of service that is reasonable to expect companies to deliver in all cases.

If the distribution company fails to meet the level of service required, it must make a payment to the customer subject to certain exemptions which are:

  • severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply
  • strikes or industrial action
  • you’re out when the energy company visits and you knew they were coming
  • you cancel an appointment.

Payments under the guaranteed standards compensate for the inconvenience caused by loss of supply. They are not designed to compensate customers for subsequent financial loss.

Ofgem monitors and enforces the guaranteed standards relating to quality of supply.

The guaranteed standards cover 12 key service areas, including supply restoration, connections and voltage quality, and for the consumer cover situations when:

  • you report a faulty prepayment meter to your supplier and someone is not sent to repair or replace it within a specified time
  • the supplier doesn’t arrive within agreed time slot for a visit to your  home
  • the supplier doesn’t respond to your written enquiries within a certain time limit gas supply is interrupted because of a fault – you may be entitled to a compensation payment, depending on for how long it is off. It must be restored within a specified time depending on the weather and the number of homes affected.
  • the supplier does not give two days or more written notice when an electricity distributor plans to interrupt your supply (example here)
  • a gas transporter digs up your garden or driveway and any damage caused by the work is not made good within ten days
  • you are on the Priority Services Register and your gas supply is interrupted but you are not given alternative heating and cooking facilities within four hours.

Back billing
Energy suppliers are signed up to Ofgem’s back-billing principle. If the supplier is at fault for not sending you a bill for more than a year, (and this could be for a number of reasons including, not dealing with requests from you about a faulty meter or account and subsequently allowing a large debt to build, failing to process a direct debit or just failing to send you a bill) then you do not have to pay. There are some reasons when this doesn’t apply, such as if you make no attempt to make a payment. Should the company not honour this principle then follow their complaints procedure.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more details about complaining to energy companies including advice, tips and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

 

How to take charge of your home removal

Moving house is considered to be a very stressful experience. Following on from the story of the last week of the couple who hired a man with a van and lost all their possessions here’s how you can prevent that happening to you.

Once you have got past the stresses of dealing with estate agents, solicitors changes in dates and all the rest of it moving day finally comes. What can you do to ensure that moving goes as smoothly as possible and what to do if even after following sensible advice it still goes wrong?

Choosing a removal firm
The National Guild of Removers and Storers ensures its members are regulated and quality checked through the Removal Industrial Services Ombudsman Scheme.

The British Association of Removers is the relevant trade organisation. It has a Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice and an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. So, should you encounter problems and your removal firm is a member then you are able to use an arbitration scheme. You may like to check their website before deciding on a removal firm to give you peace of mind.

Remember a page on Facebook means nothing. All the reviews could be written by the firm. If recommended by a friend of a friend, this still may not be good enough especially if a friend of a friend on Facebook given how so many people have “friends” on Facebook that aren’t friends and are often people with whom they have never met or spoken.

Get more than one quote especially if you insist on using a non specialist removal service. If a quote sounds cheap remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Consumer rights
When you have instructed a removal firm to move your possessions from one place to another you are covered (for services up to the 1st October) by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. From 1st October 2015 you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You can expect to receive services undertaken with reasonable skill and care. That means no damage and arrival at an agreed time. Should this not be the case then you have grounds to complain.

If any items get damaged you have the right to repair/replacement or sum of money covering the cost of replacement. You are also entitled to any out of pocket expenses you might incur due to damages of items or delay in timings of the removal.

Insurance
Check your insurance. When moving from one place to another check that you are covered and by which company – the insurance at your old place or the new one. This may give you additional cover particularly for anything you might move yourself. The company should have its own insurance to cover any breakages.

What to do if things go wrong
Keep a list of everything. If you notice damage at the time of moving mention it to the staff and keep a record. Put your complaint in writing following the tips here. Outline all the damage and out of pocket expenses and what you want to put the matter right. Give a timescale for response. If not satisfied with the response you can go to the ombudsman as detailed above. You can also go to the Small Claims Court (even after using the ombudsman.)

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more information, guidance, tips, consumer laws, rights and template letters for complaining to most sectors about most things… GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!