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Helen Dewdney and barrister Christian Weaver – your rights

This week I spoke to Christian Weaver on  The Complaining Cow Consumer Show on East London Radio.

Christian Weaver

Christian Weaver headshotChristian is a barrister at Garden Court North Chambers, a leading human rights law firm. He regularly represents clients whose rights are at risk.

He previously worked at INQUEST and volunteered at Liberty and Nottingham Law School’s Legal Advice Clinic.

Back in 2018, Christian was worried about the increasing number of people being stopped and searched. Wanting to make a difference and help inform people of their rights he created the YouTube series ‘The Law in 60 Seconds’. The law is made accessible through these videos which have been viewed thousands of times, and featured on BBC News, The Guardian and the i newspaper. He has now developed the idea into a book.

Twitter: @ChristianKamali

If you buy The Law in 60 Seconds please do a review and help empower more people!

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Discussing your rights

I discussed with Christian the importance of knowing your rights and making the law accessible. We explored a variety of topics. This included, stop and search, housing, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, and a little known fact about Hackney cabs. We also talked about even giving people their rights that they may be scared to search for on Google, for a variety of reasons.

Christian discusses with me how he came to start writing the book and the importance of making the law accessible.

We reference Leducate, an educational charity supporting teachers and pupils. It promotes an understanding of everyday legal rights among secondary school-aged students in England and Wales.

Christian has also written four guest blog posts for The Complaining Cow website:

3 things you need to look for when signing a tenancy

What you are entitled to when moving into a rented property

What are your rights regarding tenancy deposits?

How to complain about poor rental accommodation conditions .

Christian Weaver and The Complaining Cow on East London Radio

Christian Weaver and Helen Dewdney

 

East London Radio The Complaining Cow Consumer Show

Do you have a consumer issue that you would like help with to get sorted? Or do you have any ideas of subjects you would like me to cover? Then please let me know. Email me on: helen@eastlondonradio.org.uk

Complaining Cow BooksListeners to the show can get 15% off How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress & Results! and 101 Habits of an Effective Complainer. Use the code ELRCOW.

 

 

 

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Categories
Latest News Laws Topical Utilities water and energy ways to save money

Energy companies under scrutiny for Direct Debit hikes

On 3 May the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng announced that Ofgem will undertake a series of “market compliance reviews”. These are to include a “stricter supervision of how direct debits are handled” by suppliers. The Government announced that some energy suppliers were hiking the prices of Direct Debits by more than is necessary. In some cases customers are seeing double or even triple their previous monthly payments.

Ofgem has given energy companies three weeks to explain what they have been/are doing or face punishment. In the first instance Ofgem prefers to work with companies to bring a resolution to issues. However, it does have the power to fine companies, according to Ofgem’s Compliance and Enforcement website page.

Kwarteng has said “The regulator will not hesitate to swiftly enforce compliance, including issuing substantial fines.” It would be good to see these companies fined and the money put back into the pockets of consumers!

radiator

Ofgem chief speaks out

The energy price cap rose by 54% – or on average £700 – to £1,971 a year. They are expected to rise again in October.

Just two weeks after this rise, Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, said the regulator was seeing “troubling signs” that some companies were allowing customer service levels to deteriorate, and that concerns were raised by consumers and consumer organisations that some energy companies “may have been increasing direct debit payments by more than is necessary, or directing customers to tariffs that may not be in their best interest”.

It would appear that energy companies are profiteering. Brearley has said that some suppliers have been using the extra money “to prop up their finances, enabling them to follow more risky business models”. He also said that “Customer credit balances should only be used to reconcile bills, not as a source of risk-free capital.”

Citizens Advice calls for action

Citizens Advice star rating research released on the 8 April 2022  showed that “energy suppliers’ customer service is the worst it’s been on average since 2017. It comes a week on from the rise in the energy price cap “. The research showed that time waiting on the phone and for responses to emails are on the increase.

If a consumer is struggling to pay their energy bills, suppliers are responsible for providing support, such as affordable payment plans. But Citizens Advice is concerned that “many could be missing out on help they’re entitled to because they’re unable to easily contact their supplier.”

The charity calls on Ofgem to “… introduce a ‘consumer duty’ to ensure suppliers provide a service specifically designed to meet the needs of all customers.” and adds that “A similar approach is being adopted by the Financial Conduct Authority to upgrade consumer protection. It should make companies directly responsible for the outcomes their customers experience. This includes making it easy to contact companies and get support when needed.”

The shocking customer service currently being provided adds to people’s worries about bills and demonstrates that energy companies are cutting corners and not investing in supporting consumers through this difficult time.

Check your  energy bills

It’s easy to check your bills. Look at your previous bills and estimate how much you would expect to pay with the 54% rise. If you think the new Direct Debit amount is excessive then write to your energy company and complain. Ask it to lower the Direct Debit amount to a figure that you provide and include your own calculation. Then keep an eye on your consumption, taking a reading each month, so you don’t get any nasty surprises further down the line.

To calculate your bill: Take the price of electricity or gas per unit (KW/h) divided by 100 and multiply that by the consumption of the energy used. Add the cost of the standing charge, as the number of days multiplied by the daily charge, then add the VAT, which for energy is currently 5%.

So for example:

1) Pence per KW/h/100 x consumption 18.5/100) x 315.5 + £58.37
2) Days x daily standing charge 63 x 0.223 + £14.05
3) Sub total = £72.42
4) VAT @ 5% + £  3.62
5) Grand Total = £76.04

 

If you have a day and night rate, also perform the same check for the night rate.

If you have both electricity and gas then repeat the check for your gas bill too.

Check the reading

If your supplier has used estimated readings for a long time, it could be that your bill is significantly wrong. Take accurate readings and submit them to your supplier.

Don’t pay the estimated bill. Instead, send correct readings to your supplier who will provide an accurate bill. It could work in your favour, as you may have paid too much and be in credit. But do remember it could also go the other way!

Check the Direct Debit

Your Direct Debit amount should be the same each month/quarter and your supplier must inform you if it will change. If it doesn’t inform you, you can complain to your bank under the Direct Debit guarantee. The bank should then put you back into the position you were before the increase.

 

With these simple checks you can ensure that you stay in control of your energy bills.

 

Further help with energy costs and issues

Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

 

More on energy All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

 

 

 

 

How to sort out gas and electricity problems without draining your energy: 20 tips from our Consumer Fightback column – lots of information in my This Is Money column

Help with your complaints

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

101 Habits if an Effective complainer book cover with logo

 

101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purchase downloadable templates to gain redress