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Comments

Some info about HS2 and the environment

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54628840

“Some tech companies are already porting their UK customers to be served under US data privacy laws rather than more restrictive EU ones”

from

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55494101

May 2021 – Orbuculum News – From our special correspondent Claire Voyant

Dick and Jane Swift will be unable to join their Sago Cruise later this month, for which they paid over £3,000 each. They booked the cruise in February, after receiving their first Covid-19 jabs at the local GP surgery, but they are still waiting for their second injections.

Dick Swift said: “We were assured by this Government that we would receive our booster injections within 12 weeks of the first jab. It seems this is not now the case, due to limited vaccine supplies, police, teachers and other so-called essential workers being given priority and jumping the queue.”

Jane took up the story: “I spoke to the surgery, but they said that even if we could have the vaccine today, we would not develop full immunity for another two weeks, so they would not be able to issue a certificate until then, which is too late for us to join our cruise ship.”

A Sago spokesperson said: “All customers must be compliant with our Covid-19 vaccination policy, which has been put in place for the safety of passengers and crew. We are unable to offer a refund on this occasion because the conditions were made clear back in January 2021 and again at the time of booking.”

The Swifts said that they are “gutted” at not being able to go on holiday as planned and they cannot afford to lose £6,000 due to Dick being furloughed since the first lockdown. They will be contacting Which? for advice.

Patrick Taylor says:
28 January 2021

Very clever em.

You shall be elevated to Prescient Em.

BT faces £600m claim for ‘historic overcharging’ https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/01/bt-faces-600m-claim-for-historical-overcharging/

What interests me is the possibility of collective action:

If you think you’re an affected BT customer, here’s how the collective action works and what you could be entitled to.

What is a ‘collective action’?

This type of claim allows a group of individuals to group together to try to get compensation for the losses they have experienced.

The claim is brought by a representative of the group on behalf of those affected. Currently, claims for breaches of competition law, like this, can be opt-in or opt-out. This claim is ‘opt-out’ meaning that every member of the group is automatically included in the claim unless they choose to opt out.

I am not a BT customer but hope that Which? will tell us more about how customers can jointly take action against companies that let us down.

Two more energy suppliers have gone out of business: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/01/green-network-energy-stops-trading/ Customers of Green Energy Network and Simplicity Energy will no doubt be passed on to other suppliers.

Ofgem, the regulator, was supposed to be keeping an eye on new entrants into the energy market.

Some recent energy supplier changes –

09/10/20 – Tonik Energy ceases trading. 130,000 customers transferred to Scottish Power.
04/09/20 – Effortless Energy ceases trading. 2,500 customers transferred to Octopus Energy.
21/03/20 – Gnergy ceases trading. 9,000 customers transferred to Bulb.
21/12/19 – Breeze Energy ceases trading. 18,000 customers transferred to British Gas.
26/10/19 – Toto Energy ceases trading. 134,000 customers transferred to EDF Energy.
10/09/19 – Eversmart Energy ceases trading. Unknown number of customers transferred to Utilita.

Several of the other start-ups also ceased trading in the previous twelve months.

This is not really surprising since electricity and gas are standard bulk commodities which permit of no added value so performance all comes down to customer service and economies of scale.

Thanks John. I wonder how much these failures cost consumers in higher prices.

It’s disappointing that consumers have no say in which energy company their account is transferred to after a company goes bust. At least they can switch to another company if they wish.

I have avoided switching to certain companies having looked at their performance.

I was once with GB Energy that failed. Dubious money was taken out of the business but, if I remember rightly, the business model relied on spot trading while energy prices were lower, giving them an immediate cost advantage over the larger companies who had the funds to buy forward, and thus protect against significant but relatively temporary price changes. When prices did rise their fixed price contract became loss makers so they shut up shop, leaving other energy companies, and thus you and I as taxpayers, paying off the affected consumers.

Is that a fair summary? Are these later failures examples of the same, making hay while the sun shines?

We have lost Robin Hood Energy, a failure by Nottingham Council, who owned it, to run a commercial business. It was loss making, and subsidised by the council tax payers. Local authorities should be prevented from dabbling in things where they have no expertise.

Ofgem switch customers to a particular supplier who has agreed to handle the business, provide refunds and ensure continuity of supply. The consumer is perfectly free to then choose another supplier without penalty as soon as they like. The fact they chose one of these cheap small energy suppliers in the first place shows that they are likely to be competent at choosing a competitive new one.

I think it is reasonable that the Ofgem safety net comes into play immediately a company ceases trading and they appoint another company to seamlessly take on the customers. Without that consumers could be left high and dry scrambling to sign up with another supplier.

Looking at the ‘transfer market’ over the last few years it seems reasonably predictable that when a small operator fails the business will first go into the hands of one of the big boys, but Ofgem does seem to be spreading out the favours to avoid any one company getting too much market share on the back of collapses rather than performance. As you say, customers can always switch after the transfer if their new company does not offer the terms they want, but I think it is an implied risk when signing up with one of the upstarts that there could be some disruption if the firm is fragile and, like Green Network Energy, runs out of funds to buy the gas and electricity they are contracted to supply.

I could not see any reference to the collapse of Robin Hood Energy on the Ofgem website. It was placed in administration on 5 January 2021 and all the customers were transferred to British Gas, presumably with Ofgem’s approval but not by their devising; it seems that BG bought the customer base direct from the the administrators. Robin Hood Energy supplied energy to 112,000 people and 2,600 businesses plus ten local authority energy companies; it has left Nottingham City Council [i.e. the council taxpayers] with losses approaching £40m.

I have to wonder whether there is enough scrutiny and monitoring of these new energy companies. Ofgem wants to stimulate more competition so is pleased to have more players but if they are not up to the demands of game then it is a further setback to reform of the energy market.

My reason for starting this discussion is that Ofgem has not done enough to monitor new energy companies, John. I would also like to see them taking action about the large energy companies that routinely get poor ratings from Which? Here are the current ratings, which illustrate this point: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/energy-companies/article/energy-companies/which-energy-survey-results-ajqM43e6ycY8

Ofgem’s improved scrutiny of energy companies was not retrospective. I wonder how many of these failed companies were incorporated before the new Ofgem rules – particularly financial security – came into being.

One swallow does not make a summer, but exceptional cases are often held up to support, or otherwise, a case. So in that vein , I have been with one or more of the big 6 for many years and have had no problems and, when needed, have been able to discuss customer service issues.

My current supplier is Scottish Power – one of the “worst” – and they give me one of the cheapest fixed price deals around, apart from some of the upstarts. I am not uncritical of them, however. Although I have a cheap deal, I could not get it direct from them, only through a switching website like Uswitch and Which?Switch. The difference was substantial. But I presume this is not specific to SP but to other suppliers? It is wrong and should be stopped. Perhaps Which? should address this?

I am prepared to pay a little more for buying energy from a company that provides a good service. Having been a customer of Scottish Power thanks to a good value collective switching scheme (so I had no choice of supplier), I feel sorry for those customers of Tonik Energy who have been passed on to SP.

Do you think switching services should be able to offer tariffs from a particular supplier substantially cheaper than you can get from the supplier direct?

It would be interesting to know what the Competitions and Markets Authority thinks of that. It seems doubly wrong to me because the comparison website is also getting a cut.

I would like to see one non-commercial website that shows all the current tariffs and facilitates switching.

a – A number of us commented on this in a thread in the general discussion Conversation ‘The Lobby’, starting here –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/off-topic-lobby-3/#comment-1620854

It raises a number of significant concerns for consumers but unfortunately there has not yet been any comment from Which? staff.