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PLANS FOR STRONG NEW ENERGY CONSUMER COUNCIL

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Proposals to create a strong consumer body for gas and electricity ...
Proposals to create a strong consumer body for gas and electricity

consumers announced today were welcomed by consumer affairs minister,

Kim Howells. The new proposals for the Gas and Electricity

Consumer Council, being set up under the Utilities Bill, were put

forward by Ann Robinson, chair of the Gas Consumer Council and

chair-designate of the new council following an extensive

consultation exercise.

Welcoming the proposals for the Gas and Electricity Consumers

Council, Dr Howells said:

'Open and competitive markets are the best guarantee of a good deal

for consumers. They promote innovation and efficiency and deliver

higher quality products and better service at lower prices. The new

Gas and Electricity Consumer Council will have a part to play in

helping energy businesses deliver these benefits to consumers. Of

course, the Council will deal with complaints that companies have

failed to resolve. But, just as important, it will work to improve

companies' performance, to avoid complaints arising in the first

place, and to improve companies' complaint-handling procedures where

problems do occur. I am pleased that the council will also be

focussing on helping consumers to be better advocates in their own

right.'

Ann Robinson's vision is for a strong, unified body that can deliver

a one-stop shop for consumers, and which is able to adapt as the

market changes. Announcing her proposals she said:

'I regard this new organisation as an exciting approach to helping

consumers get the best from their gas and electricity suppliers. We

shall be championing consumer's interests as well as dealing with

complaints, which companies have failed to resolve, acting as the

consumer's advocate and, if necessary, naming and shaming companies

which provide poor service. By giving consumers confidence and

helping them through this complex utility market, they will be able

to gain the most benefit.'

Notes

1. The new Gas and Electricity Consumer Council (GECC) being set up

under the Utilities Bill will merge the existing Gas Consumers'

Council and the 14 Regional Electricity Consumers' Committees. This

reflects trends where the same company now increasingly supplies both

gas and electricity and there have been many new entrants to the

market place.

2. Ann Robinson was appointed chair of the Gas Consumers' Council

in December, and will take the chair of the GECC when it is formally

created later this year subject to the Bill completing its passage

through parliament and receiving royal assent.

3. She has been drawing up proposals for the structure of the new

organisation, and intends to set up an HQ (based in London) plus

seven regional offices: one each in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow,

London, Manchester, Newcastle and Bournemouth. Each office will

contain dedicated teams serving local areas, and will undertake a mix

of work including dealing with consumer complaints and enquiries,

consumer education, consumer advocacy and representation,and

information, advice and communication issues.

4. Ann Robinson's priorities are:

- Suppliers' selling practices

- Processes for transferring customers

- Billing problems

- Accurate meter readings

- Gas safety

- Problems of the fuel poor

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