- Help for consumers accused of copyright infringement
- An update on the Post Office
- Energy efficiency and behaviour change workshops
- Energy and post help from the Extra Help Unit
- What’s new from Consumer Focus – our latest research and reports
Don’t forget, if you want to keep up to date with all our news as it happens you can follow us on Twitter.
O2 customers pursued over copyright infringement
We are working with Citizens Advice to raise awareness of help available to consumers who have received letters from Golden Eye, claiming copyright infringement.
The High Court ruled that Golden Eye, acting on behalf of pornographic film producer Ben Dover, can use the names and addresses of O2 customers to pursue claims of copyright infringement. 2,845 people are likely to be sent claim letters by Golden Eye in the next few months.
We are concerned that without independent advice, innocent consumers could feel compelled to settle, or that consumers who have infringed copyright may feel pressured into paying a sum disproportionate to the offence. Consumers who want to either challenge the allegations against them, or settle a claim with Golden Eye out of court can get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06, or their local Citizens Advice Bureau.
This summer sees the beginning of the Post Office’s Network Transformation. More than half of traditional sub post offices will convert to new operating models as part of the largest set of planned changes in the Post Office’s history. By 2015, out of the total 11,800 branches, around 4,000 larger and busier branches will be converted into Post Office Mains and a further 2,000 sub post offices will be converted into Post Office Locals. Both models will offer extended opening hours however, Post Office Mains will provide a fuller range of products and services. Post Office Locals will offer consumers a more restricted range of products and services, delivered by trained shop staff from the main counter of retail outlets such as convenience stores and petrol stations.
Following the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ consultation, the Government plans to transfer ownership of the Post Office into a mutual model, such as a co-operative which is owned by and run for the benefit of, current and future members. In the case of a mutual Post Office this will include operators,staff and consumers.
We are pleased that the Government recognises there must be a balance between the interests of consumers and operators and the need for a mutual Post Office to operate in the public interest. We are delighted that the Government is suggesting strong consumer representation; legislation to police the process of mutualisation; that mutualisation only happens when the network is on a more stable footing; and that operators will only be able to share in profits once reinvestment in the network has been prioritised.
The principles of mutualism – working together, being responsive, and listening to customers – are what consumers want and the design of the mutual needs to reflect those areas that matter most to consumers.
Marketing energy efficiency and behaviour change workshops
There are still a few places left on our workshops in September in York, London and Birmingham.
These practical workshop are for those planning or delivering domestic energy efficiency programmes. They cover:
- encouraging people to take action on energy efficiency
- reducing the number of households in fuel poverty
- improving health and reducing illness caused by living in cold homes
We have put together a delivery checklist to help people engage their target audience in energy efficiency measures.
Specialist energy and post help for advisers
Our Extra Help Unit deals with energy and post complaints from vulnerable consumers in the UK. These complaints are referred to us from Citizens Adivce, Ofgem, Ofcom, MPs, AMs and MSPs.
Stakeholders, advice agencies and parliamentarians can call their Ask The Advisor service on 0844 980 0041 for advice about an energy or postal case. A senior caseworker will take the call and answer any questions to help resolvethe complaint. We cover areas such as industry regulations, complaint handling, payment arrangements, switching information, metering information and help with billing.
The Ask the Adviser service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. (Please note that we are only able to help advice agencies and not individual consumers. Consumer can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or people can talk to a Welsh-speaking adviser on 08454 04 05 05. The helplines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.)
We also have a service available on our website where advice agencies can access information available on our Knowledge Base to assist with queries. You can ask specific questions and receive an answer within two working days.
User name: Adviceprovider
Energy news in brief
- Energy customers who suffered power-cuts as a result of the floods last month in the North East may be able to claim a goodwill payment from Northern Powergrid. The payment will be £54 for any customer without power for more than 24 hours and a further £27 for each 12-hour period thereafter (some conditions apply). Register using the online form on Northern Powergrid’s website or call 0800 2987769.
- Our most recent energy complaint league table shows most energy suppliers have seen a slight fall in complaints. This has resulted in ScottishPower increasing from a three-star to a four-star rating. SSE maintains its position at the top of league table. EDF Energy remains at the bottom with a zero-rating
- The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) is concerned that the Government’s current plans to help people make their homes more energy efficient – the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation schemes – will not succeed in tackling fuel poverty among all the families affected. NCB and Consumer Focus believe the Energy Bill Revolution will make all homes warmer, reduce energy bills, cut carbon emissions and help bring people out of fuel poverty. We are calling on everyone to work together towards the common goal of ending fuel poverty. Download the briefing to find out more.
What’s new from Consumer Focus
Making progress – An analysis of improvements made by energy companies for their prepayment customers
In March 2011, the ‘big six’ energy suppliers agreed to implement five key principles, set out by us, which were developed following the publication of our research into prepayment meter (PPM) users. This report looks at how well the major energy suppliers have implemented the five key principles. The aims of the principles are to ensure customers in vulnerable circumstances are not disadvantaged, and to avoid situations that can lead to customers limiting and, in severe circumstances, self-disconnecting their energy supply.
Online traceability: Who did that?
This report, written by technical expert Dr Richard Clayton, provides advice on standards and procedures which should be adopted to ensure that copyright owners can reliably identify an internet connection which has been used to infringe copyright through peer-to-peer filesharing.
Common cause, collective action: The extent and nature of co-operation using new web technologies
This report summarises two pieces of research, commissioned by Consumer Focus, which provide an accessible way of understanding theories of co-operation and give active examples on the web. The report considers what this might mean for consumer empowerment.
Sense and sustainability – A report on the Universal Postal Service
With the rise of mobile phones, email, the internet and social media, consumers have never had access to as many different communications methods as they do today. The challenge for policy-makers is to assess whether these sources of competition mean that the role of more traditional methods of communication, such as post, need to be re-considered.