Energy bodies set for clash on licensing

Consumer watchdog Energywatch could soon be at loggerheads with energy regulator Ofgem over the existing marketing licence conditions, which are designed to outlaw malpractice in marketing utilities.

Ofgem has extended the licence conditions – due to expire on April 1 – by two years, but no amendments have been made.

Energywatch has been pressing Ofgem to tighten the conditions under which power suppliers operate. The watchdog is concerned about the high level of consumer complaints about marketing and selling techniques.

Earlier this year, both bodies clashed over the number of complaints about high-pressure selling techniques (MW January 24). According to Ofgem, the number of complaints is decreasing. Energywatch, however, insists that complaints are on the rise.

According to the latest Energywatch figures for the period September to November 2001, complaints about gas direct selling increased by over 13.4 per cent and those for electricity rose by more than ten per cent (MW March 14).

Industry insiders say that Ofgem has yet to notify the utility companies about extending the licence conditions.

A spokesman for Ofgem says: “We are undertaking research at the moment on how to strengthen the existing conditions.”

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