The Energy Advice Line has supported calls by energy regulator Ofgem for business electricity and domestic bills issued by the Big Six suppliers to be independently verified.
But the UK’s leading price business electricity price comparison and switching service has renewed calls for the appointment of an independent business energy watchdog to do the checking and enforce good behaviour by suppliers.
According to reports, Ofgem last week wrote to trade body Energy UK, which represents suppliers and operates a Code of Practice for Accurate Bills.
In the letter, Ofgem’s Anthony Pygram said that some energy customers might not have had “clear and accurate” billing information if prices changed during the billing period.
Although there was no evidence of “systematic errors”, Mr Pygram questioned whether suppliers were complying with Energy UK’s Code of Practice.
“As Energy UK is the owner of the code, we wanted to draw the issue explained above to your attention so that you may consider in the first instance whether suppliers are acting in compliance with the code,” Mr Pygram’s letter said.
“Of course, this is without prejudice to the possibility that Ofgem may take action in the future if deemed appropriate.”
Julian Morgan, managing director of the Energy Advice Line, said Ofgem’s letter to Energy UK was further evidence of the need for an independent business energy watchdog.
“Ofgem clearly has doubts about the accuracy of some billing information and of course it is appropriate that this be verified and checked,” Mr Morgan said.
“Whether Energy UK is best placed to do this is doubtful – after all, it is a trade body representing suppliers themselves.
“We have long been calling for the appointment of an enforcement body to ensure that Codes of Practice like this, and other regulatory reforms, have teeth and will be taken seriously by suppliers.
“There is no point having a Code of Practice unless it is referred to in the actual supply licence as a stipulation for suppliers to adhere to, and unless that Code is policed by a body with powers to enforce it.”
Business groups have previously warned that Ofgem’s proposals for a shake-up of the business energy market could be undermined due to lack of an enforcement body.
Consumer watchdog Consumer Focus is due to be disbanded in 2013, with some of its functions passed to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB).
“Consumer Focus would have been the most sensible option as the watchdog, as long as it was given powers by Ofgem or the government to enforce reforms. But with Consumer Focus non-existent after 2013, Ofgem needs to consider which body will enforce good behaviour by suppliers.”
The Energy Advice Line is the UK’s leading business electricity price comparison and switching services, and enables firms to compare the market for the best possible business energy deals at the touch of a button.
The service has a team of business experts who can give advice about business energy contracts and how to avoid expensive contract rollovers. For further information visit www.energyadviceline.org.uk