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To ask Her Majesty's Government what (1) consumer protections, (2) redress schemes, (3) requirements to provide information and (4) requirements to treat consumers fairly currently exist in UK law in relation to third-party intermediaries which offer water and energy services to consumers, including under the retail exit programme for water companies.
In energy the Confidence Code is a Code of Practice to govern independent energy price comparison websites. Ofgem accredits sites to the Code and these must follow key principles in order to operate their service. When customers are presented with options and prices, they have been calculated and are displayed in a fair and unbiased way.
Accredited price comparison websites must operate an effective complaints process. If a customer has a complaint, they should first contact the comparison site to tell them so that they can try to resolve it. If a customer is not satisfied with the outcome, they can then contact Ofgem who will then investigate the issue.
The business retail water market opened in April. Third party intermediaries such as water brokers play an important role in supporting many customers in finding the best deal for their business. The marketing activities of such intermediaries operating in the water market, as with intermediaries generally, are subject to regulation. The Competition and Markets Authority and trading standard authorities have roles in ensuring that customers are not misled when switching to alternative suppliers. The ‘Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008’ apply to marketing activities in the water retail market.
Ofwat acts as the independent economic regulator of the new market. The Retail Exits Regulations required Ofwat to introduce a code to apply to customers who are transferred via an exit setting out the contract terms that will apply. Additionally all retailers must follow Ofwat’s customer protection code of practice that contains key customer protection obligations, including a requirement for retailers to obtain written confirmation from customers who choose to use the services of a third party intermediary.