While our advisers at Citizens Advice for Buckingham, Winslow and the surrounding rural area are working hard to help individuals in our community with all manner of problems, ranging from debt to benefits, accommodation needs, employment concerns and more, at the top-level our national colleagues are always working hard to lobby government bodies such as Ofgem, and even parliament, to fight for consumer rights. And this month we’ve seen the beginnings of some big changes in the energy world, an industry that our advisers often have to wrangle with on clients’ behalf.
This week Ofgem, the energy regulator for the UK, has announced a new framework for energy companies what will result in savings for customers. The framework proposes to regulate the amount network companies pay to shareholders and investors, meaning that more profit will be reinvested into infrastructure.
The cap on network shareholders payments will also result in an estimated saving of £5billion for consumers (in real terms this means around £15 – £25 per year for a dual fuel household). This is because of an average household fuel bill of £1,100, around £250 of this is made up of network costs. The framework, which is still in its early stage, is currently set to come into play in 2021.
Citizens Advice have been really pleased to see these plans announced, as the organisation last year was instrumental in revealing that due to currently Ofgem regulation energy network companies were on course to make £7.5bn in unjustified profits when so many consumers were struggling to pay their energy bills. In the 12 months up to February this year, over 165,000 people sought help with fuel bills and fuel debts from Citizens Advice in England and Wales.
Another fuel-bill victory for Citizens Advice this will is the announcement that Ofgem will formally ban household energy suppliers from issuing back-bills for energy consumed more than 12 months ago in instances where the consumer has supplied meter readings and acted in good faith. The ban which comes into force in May will also cover small businesses, and places the responsibility on the energy supply when it is their error.
As typical back-bills currently sent out by suppliers average at around £1,160, but can often be much higher, this is a real victory for consumers who often end up having to seek the help of Citizens’ Advice to face problems like these bills. The ban, however, will not benefit customers who actively prevent suppliers obtaining accurate meter readings.
With so many changes to the energy sector, it’s so important for BACAB to continue to provide support Citizens Advice in Buckingham, Winslow and the district who work tirelessly to visit members of the community and help them navigate these complex problems.