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Energy / Energy regulator urged to be more ‘proactive’ over complaints

Frustration at Ofgem’s lack of action on customer service and price hikes

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael.

SHETLAND’S parliamentarians are calling on energy regulator Ofgem to take a more “proactive” approach to supporting islanders frustrated by poor customer service and exorbitant price rises.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart were speaking after a meeting with Ofgem to share evidence of mounting discontent among Shetlanders.

The Liberal Democrat politicians presented a range of evidence from constituents outlining poor service, inconsistent access to competitive tariffs and price hikes in recent years.

It comes in the same week that new evidence showing the number of Scottish households in extreme fuel poverty rose to more than 300,000.

Between 2018 and 2019 the rate of fuel poverty in remote areas rose to 43 per cent – with Shetland and its exposed climate traditionally among the worst affected parts of the country.

Carmichael said: “The only positive changes we have seen from energy suppliers have come when there has been proactive engagement on our part with them – letters sent by us on behalf of specific constituents.

“There are signs of a systemic problem with companies thinking they can do whatever they like in the isles if they are not caught. That alone should be ringing alarm bells in Ofgem.

“We can only help those who come to us looking for that help and so it is vital that the regulator starts to take a more active role in policing supplier behaviour, or many others risk losing out.”

Wishart said Ofgem needed to take a “much more proactive approach to tackle poor practices and support customers and we will be meeting again to push for measurable action”.

She added: “The evidence we presented to the regulator clearly shows there are wholesale issues in the energy market and we continue to receive representations from constituents reinforcing the points we made.”

Both the MP and MSP urged constituents to get in touch if they have issues to raise or if they want to share their experiences with energy providers.

An Ofgem spokesman said the regulator welcomed the parliamentarians’ engagement and “will now examine the information provided and discuss the issues again with the MP and MSP in the near future”.

“Suppliers are required to treat their customers fairly, and Ofgem has protections in place for customers where things go wrong,” the spokesman claimed.

“Ofgem is strengthening support for customers struggling with energy bills ahead of this winter. Our new protections come into effect from 15 December, meaning suppliers will have to provide more protection for customers struggling to pay their energy bills, plus extra help for pre-payment customers.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021