Tag Archives: consumer rights

Improving consumer knowledge in the energy industry

As a liberal, I am not in the business of banning many things. I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power, and that by providing consumers with more information, positive outcomes can be achieved. For a market to be competitive, consumers must have information, and we know that competitive markets improve outcomes across the board.

In the food industry this has already happened. If you look on a packet of crisps, it will show you how many calories there are, how much salt as well as a whole host of other nutritional information. According to this report, the US is going to start labelling GMO foods with a smiley face. 

Because of this, consumers are able to make choices and we are seeing a downward trend in calorie consumption. However, we don’t do this in a lot of other markets, including the energy industry.

With the energy industry, it is difficult for consumers to get information about the product that they are buying. Consumers are using comparison sites, which help to an extent, but unless each utility company is researched, it is tricky.

This is where policy makers can come in, and it could act as a nudge mechanism for consumers.

YouGov surveyed 2,000 UK consumers and found that consumers would pay on average up to 10 per cent more for a sustainable product. The same report, which can be found here, found that 40 per cent of consumers already consider the sustainability of the product when they buy.

This is where we can reform the energy industry. Not with price caps like Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have put forward, which would only serve to reduce the supply from smaller energy providers. 

Instead, we could compel energy providers to produce some sort of guidance for the consumer regarding the sustainability of the product. Which countries are the main producers of the energy? Is it sustainable? What method of extraction was used to get the energy? That type of thing. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 7 Comments

Lib Dem amendment to give power to mobile phone users defeats Government in Lords

After two days of debate on the Article 50 Bill, the House of Lords turned its attention to the Digital Economy Bill last night – and inflicted a defeat on the Government as the Mirror reports.

The House of Lords backed plans to cap monthly mobile phone bills tonight as peers inflicted an embarrassing defeat on the Government.

Supporters say it will stop cash-strapped users seeing costs spiral out of control, barring them from making calls when they hit their limit.

Tory ministers hoped to block the move, which would let customers set limits on how much they can spend.

But the plan, written as amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, was approved 244-198 (majority 46) against the government’s wishes.

Lib Dem Lord Clement-Jones backed it, saying: “Mobile phone billing is one of the most complicated areas of domestic expenditure.

There may be in particular some danger of vulnerable customers getting into difficulty and it should be possible for a consumer to set a cap on expenditure on a mobile phone.

The amendment also makes it easier for people to switch mobile phone contracts. Tim Clement-Jones added after the debate:

The Liberal Democrats have beaten the government to create a fairer system in which the consumer rights of many millions of mobile phone users are put first.

Today’s vote will mean greater rights for the millions of people across the country who have a mobile phone contract.

The Government now has to decide whether it is going to fight against this proposal. Overturning this amendment will be a slap in the face to anyone who has had been tied up with an unjust and exploitative phone contract.

The Government suffered a second defeat on the issue of rural broadband. Tim Clement-Jones explains:

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Baroness Jenny Randerson writes…Consumer rights should cover train franchises

The recent poor performance of the Southern rail franchise, operated by Govia Thameslink Railway, have cast concern at the Government’s decision to exclude rail from the 2015 Consumer Rights Act. An Act which allows customers to be adequately compensated for any excessive disruption. In addition, passengers being forced to travel in cramped conditions when ironically, there are tight regulations preventing the overcrowding of animals when they are transported by train, but no similar rules relate to people.

Recent news headlines have been filled with these chaotic tales and the genuine distress of travellers, but what is more worrying is that this relentless and overwhelmingly negative impact appears to have no end in sight despite the recent reinstatement of 119 services. Both Tim and I have provided numerous comments on how the Government should and must intervene in a situation that is completely and utterly out of hand, and we share the exasperation of GTR’s customers.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 21 Comments

Jenny Willott MP writes…Cracking down on copycat websites

imageThe internet has made life a lot easier in many ways for many people – I can hardly imagine a time when I wasn’t able to make online bank transfers, get a grocery shop delivered or book a holiday online. However, as we all spend more time online and use the internet to do increasing numbers of things, new problems and challenges arise which we have to address.

People deserve the same protection online as they get offline, and we need to make sure that we have the ability and resources to ensure this is the case.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

LibLink: Norman Lamb – How can we bring consumer law into the digital age?

Norman LambWriting for Which? in his capacity as consumer affairs minister, here’s what Norman Lamb had to say about his hopes for improving consumer protection:

I want to develop a single, comprehensive set of shoppers’ rights, which sets out in plain English, all the rights and remedies that consumers have. The intention is to drive up business standards and help you settle issues much more quickly and easily.

At the start of July we launched a consultation seeking your views on proposals to strengthen the law on goods, services, and digital

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Flight cancelled or delayed? Reasons to be thankful for EU Regulation 261/2004

While the Westminster Village is fixated by the Telegraph-hyped furore that Lib Dem ministers don’t always agree with every aspect of Coalition policy (shock, horror etc), the rest of the country is focused on a British obsession bigger even than the media’s predeliction for attaching the suffix ‘-gate’ to a noun: the weather.

Newspaper and TV pictures have been dominated by images of those hoping for a holiday getaway having their hopes dashed and their tempers frayed by the endless queues and chaos at Heathrow and for the Eurostar. …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Clegg impresses MoneySavingExpert.com

MoneySavingExpert is reporting that Nick Clegg answered an open letter to David Cameron before the Tories managed to get their boots on:

It came about in an unusual way. Clegg (pictured, right) is one of the 3.5 million recipients of the MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) weekly money tips email. In it, three weeks ago, he spotted an open letter to David Cameron where MSE asked the Tory leader to back the campaign for automatic refunds.

While Cameron has not replied, Clegg, and his Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable, in a letter to MSE this week (see full text below), have promised to table a

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