London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — June 23, 2008 – U.K. energy regulatory body Ofgem has appointed the Ombudsman Supply Limited (tOSL) to become the new independent ombudsman for gas and electricity customers. The new ombudsman service will replace the voluntary scheme that Ofgem ordered the industry to put in place in 2006 with a statutory scheme that all energy companies, including network companies, must join.
The new statutory ombudsman will still settle disputes between energy companies and customers and retain the powers to award customers up to £5,000 ($10,000) in compensation. The coverage of the scheme will now be extended to small businesses as well as domestic customers.
Furthermore, as part of the Government’s Consumer Estate Agents and Redress Act, consumer representation will change in the energy industry. The new arrangements will replace watchdog body energywatch. From 1 October 2008 Consumer Direct will take on responsibility for providing initial advice to energy consumers, as they do already in other sectors. The new National Consumer Council will bring together the current NCC with some of the functions of energywatch and Postwatch to create a more powerful and streamlined consumer body.
As part of the new arrangements a new statutory redress scheme was to be set up to formalize the industry-led arrangements which Ofgem required to be put in place in 2006 to provide redress to energy customers who could not resolve their disputes with suppliers. All companies will now, on a date set by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, be required to join the scheme run by tOSL. It is expected that this date will be 1 October to align with the rest of the new arrangements.