IN addition to the help and support it provides each year to more than 2,000 people living locally, Citizens Advice campaigns hard to protect all consumers and has just had another notable success.
A year ago the charity submitted a ‘super complaint’ to the Competition and Markets Authority pointing out that customers who remained loyal to their existing supplier were frequently being penalised.
It particularly highlighted five essential markets – mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings – where it said that the ‘loyalty penalty’ was unfair to consumers.
As a result, Ofcom, the regulator for the telecommunications industry, has now launched a major consultation exercise with the aim of enabling mobile phone customers in future to be able to shop around with confidence, so they can make informed choices and get a fair deal.
Citizens Advice has also been named as the preferred option to be the new statutory consumer advocate for telecoms, replicating the arrangements in energy and post.
Gillian Guy, its chief executive, said: “Despite broadband and mobile services being essential to our daily lives, right now consumers lack a voice when things go wrong.
“A dedicated telecoms consumer advocate will finally bring this in line with other industries and will help the regulator do its job holding providers to account. Loyal customers who stick with their broadband and mobile providers pay hundreds of pounds more a year.”
This is the fourth ‘super complaint’ Citizens Advice has made since being given the power to do so in 2002. The one it launched in 2005 highlighting the problems with payment protection insurance has helped generate a huge win for consumers, with at least £35.7billion so far having been returned to customers in refunds and compensation.
Citizens Advice also acts as the official consumer watchdog for energy, and wants to see radical reform in this sector to protect customers as new technologies are introduced in this fast-changing industry.
In a new report looking at how customers access gas and electricity, it is looking at how householders and small businesses could benefit from different ways of buying energy. These could include consumers being able to trade power locally, agreeing to a fixed price for a set level of comfort, or getting a better deal by only using appliances at certain times.
Local offices of Citizens Advice already help 80,000 people with energy supply problems every year, and Gillian Guy commented: “The government’s recent adoption of a net zero carbon emissions target means big changes in how we access energy are on the way.
“New innovations in the way we heat and light our homes will bring benefits for many. The danger is that some of the most vulnerable in society end up excluded from these exciting developments.”
Help from Citizens Advice is free, confidential and impartial and it holds two advice sessions in Lyme Regis each week.
They are on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at Lyme Regis Medical Centre in Uplyme Road, DT7 3LS and on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm at St Michael’s Business Centre, DT7 3DB, in the centre of the town. No appointment is required.
Anyone is also welcome to seek help at its offices in South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY every weekday between 10am and 3pm or can contact Citizens Advice by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 03442-451291, which gets you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.
For people just wanting help with Universal Credit claims they can contact Citizens Advice on a national freephone number which is 0800-144-8-444 and a webchat support service is available through its website.
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