Posts tagged "Gillian Guy"

A third of families ration fuel as soaring power prices force ‘heat or eat’ dilemma

New research reveals 10% of people have already defaulted on energy bills

Soaring fuel bills are leading to acute power rationing among many families as one in four say they are skipping meals to meet fuel costs. The “heat or eat” dilemma is becoming one of the most toxic issues for the coalition as it battles to convince the public it is on their side when it comes to curbing the power of the energy giants.

A new poll of 2,000 people by Onepoll for Ovo Energy reveals that over a third of homes are rationing power. The energy company claims inflation-busting rises of up to 12% have left 70% of British homes forced to limit their power consumption. There are concerns more families are at an increased risk of becoming ill as a result of switching off their heating.

Ovo’s research suggests one in ten families have already defaulted on their energy bills, while a further 14.5% claim they will be unable to pay this winter. Over a fifth of families have even begun wearing outdoor clothing such as hats, coats and scarves indoors to keep warm, along with over a quarter who drape themselves in blankets to avoid turning on the heating.

The latest figures show the average dual fuel power bill has now hit a record £1,318 prompting families to cut back. A quarter – 23.7% – of the 2,000 people polled said they had been forced to ration food in order to meet the costs of their energy bills. And almost one in 10 admitted they could no longer afford to buy Christmas gifts for their family.

One in 13 people said they had begun to get into debt to meet their energy bills, with no long-term plan to pay it back.

Figures collected by the Citizens Advice Bureau claim 38% of people would cut back on food shopping to pay for other household bills.

“Heat or eat is a very real question for many of our clients,” CAB chief executive Gillian Guy said. “We have serious concerns about the impact that this will have on people on low incomes. Citizens Advice saw over 95,000 fuel debt problems last year and we regularly hear stories of people only heating one room or parents only heating their house when their children are home.”

Last week the government published its long-awaited Energy Bill that will allow energy companies to charge households an extra £7.6bn, money that will go towards low-carbon electricity infrastructure. The advisory committee on climate change estimates this will add about £110 to the average household energy bill by 2020.


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Posted by admin - December 2, 2012 at 10:14

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Npower and British Gas raise prices

Protests as two energy suppliers announce price increases – of up to 9% – on same day

Millions of householders face record high heating bills this winter as two of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers announced price increases of up to 9% on the same day.

British Gas has announced a price rise of 6% for gas and electricity customers that will add £80 to the typical household’s annual bill, while npower has announced an 8.8% price increase for gas and 9.1% for electricity, adding £112 to bills.

The rises, which come into effect on 16 November for British Gas and 10 days later for npower customers, will make the latter the most expensive supplier in the country. Customers on its most expensive tariff face a typical annual bill of £1,356.

SSE has already announced price rises of 9%, which take effect on Monday, making it the second most expensive supplier, at £1,354 a year. British Gas is a close third with average bills rising to £1,336.

The move is a bitter blow for householders who suffered gas and electricity price rises in 2011 of 18% and 16% respectively from British Gas and 17% from npower. This was followed by a 5% drop in electricity tariffs by British Gas in January 2012 and a 3% cut in the same month from npower.

George Osborne told ITV: “We are doing everything we can to help people insulate their homes better. We’ve got government programmes which we urge people to take up to make sure that they can get their electricity bills cheaper but of course I’m concerned when I see electricity bills going up and partly that is because of things beyond our control – what’s happening in the world with oil prices and gas prices.”

Asked whether energy companies are profiting too much, the chancellor said: “Of course these companies need to generate money that they can invest in new power stations and new grids and the like but I’m also very clear that at a time like this we’ve got to help families.”

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Rises in fuel costs are eating away at people’s earnings, forcing them to make really difficult choices about whether to have a warm home, put food on the table, or fill up the car in order to get to work.”

A total of 8.5m households will be hit by the British Gas increase, though a further 1 million of its customers on fixed-price contracts will be unaffected. The 4,000 British Gas customers on its renewable energy tariff will face even bigger rises when their electricity bills rise by 11%. The company blamed the bigger rise on the higher cost of generating electricity from renewable sources. Three million npower customers will see their prices go up, while a further 500,000 on fixed tariffs will see no change.

British Gas blamed the price increase on rising wholesale prices as well as increasing costs related to social and environmental issues. “We simply cannot ignore the rising costs that are largely outside our control, but which make up most of the bill,” said the company’s managing director, Phil Bentley.

“Britain’s North Sea gas supplies are running out, and British Gas has to pay the going rate for gas in a competitive global marketplace. Furthermore, the investment needed to maintain and upgrade the national grid to deliver energy to our customers’ homes, and the costs of the government’s policies for a clean, energy efficient Britain, are all going up.”

Paul Massara, chief commercial officer at npower, blamed “external factors”. “We support moves to reduce CO2 emissions, but new government schemes will mean energy bills will rise,” he said.

Consumer groups were quick to express their concerns, not only at the size of the rises but at the similarity between the resulting prices. Joe Malinowski, energy analyst at TheEnergyShop.com, said he did not agree wholesale gas prices could be to blame. “Year on year these are down,” he said. “The price rise also makes British Gas’s prices almost identical to that of SSE, once SSE’s prices go up on Monday. So where is the competition in the market?”

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said: “Price hikes on the same day will just reinforce the views and prejudices of consumers – whether justified or not – about a lack of transparency and competitiveness in the market.

“People are not convinced they are getting a fair deal. Unless they can be reassured about the relationship between costs, prices and profits, consumer distrust will continue, companies won’t get their message across, and the success of the regulator will be questioned.”

It is widely anticipated the remaining “big six” suppliers will soon follow suit with similar price rises. E.ON has a price freeze in place until the end of the yearbut has refused to rule out an increase after that, but ScottishPower and EDF are expected to announce rises imminently.

Some householders could still save close to £300 by switching supplier and tariff, but many of the cheapest deals have recently been pulled. Three of the cheapest five tariffs now come from two of the country’s smallest suppliers, First Utility and Ovo Energy.

See if you can save money with the Guardian Money Deals switching service


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Posted by admin - October 13, 2012 at 08:51

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Npower joins British Gas in raising energy prices

Protests as two energy suppliers announce price increases – of up to 9% – on same day

Millions of householders face record high heating bills this winter as two of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers announced price increases of up to 9% on the same day.

British Gas has announced a price rise of 6% for gas and electricity customers that will add £80 to the typical household’s annual bill, while npower has announced an 8.8% price increase for gas and 9.1% for electricity, adding a typical £112 to bills.

The rises, which come into effect on 16 November for British Gas and 10 days later for npower customers, will make the latter the most expensive supplier in the country. Customers on its most expensive tariff face a typical annual bill of £1,356.

SSE has already announced price rises of 9%, which take effect on Monday, making it the second most expensive supplier, at £1,354 a year. British Gas is a close third with average bills rising to £1,336.

The move is a bitter blow for householders who suffered gas and electricity price rises in 2011 of 18% and 16% respectively from British Gas and 17% from npower. This was followed by a drop of 5% in electricity tariffs by British Gas in January 2012 and a 3% cut in the same month from npower.

“These price hikes will be a big blow to hard-up households,” said Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy. “Rises in fuel costs are eating away at people’s earnings, forcing them to make really difficult choices about whether to have a warm home, put food on the table, or fill up the car in order to get to work.”

A total of 8.5 million households will be hit by the British Gas increase, although a further 1 million of its customers on fixed-price contracts will be unaffected. Three million npower customers will see their prices go up, while a further 500,000 on fixed tariffs will see no change.

British Gas blamed the price increase on rising wholesale prices as well as increasing costs related to social and environmental issues.

“We simply cannot ignore the rising costs that are largely outside our control, but which make up most of the bill,” said managing director Phil Bentley.

“Britain’s North Sea gas supplies are running out, and British Gas has to pay the going rate for gas in a competitive global marketplace. Furthermore, the investment needed to maintain and upgrade the national grid to deliver energy to our customers’ homes, and the costs of the government’s policies for a clean, energy efficient Britain, are all going up.”

Paul Massara, chief commercial officer at npower, blamed “external factors”. “We support moves to reduce CO2 emissions, but new government schemes will mean energy bills will rise,” he said.

Consumer groups were quick to express their concerns, not only at the size of the rises but at the similarity between the resulting prices.

Joe Malinowski, energy analyst at TheEnergyShop.com, said he did not agree wholesale gas prices could be to blame. “Year-on-year these are down,” he said. “The price rise also makes British Gas’s prices almost identical to that of SSE, once SSE’s prices go up on Monday. So where is the competition in the market?”

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said: “Two price hikes on the same day will just reinforce the views and prejudices of consumers – whether justified or not – about a lack of transparency and competitiveness in the market.

“People are not convinced they are getting a fair deal. Unless they can be reassured about the relationship between costs, prices and profits, consumer distrust will continue, companies won’t get their message across, and the success of the regulator will be questioned.”

It is widely anticipated the remaining energy suppliers that make up the “big six” will soon follow suit with similar price rises. E.ON has a price freeze in place until the end of the year but has refused to rule out an increase after that; Scottish Power and EDF are both expected to announce increases imminently.

Some householders could still save close to £300 by switching supplier and tariff, but many of the cheapest deals have recently been pulled. Three of the cheapest five tariffs now come from two of the country’s smallest suppliers, First Utility and Ovo Energy.

See if you can save money with the Guardian Money Deals switching service


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Posted by admin - October 12, 2012 at 17:36

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British Gas raises gas and electricity tariffs by 6%

Annual dual fuel bill for customers with average consumption will increase by about £80 from next month

British Gas has announced a price rise of 6% for gas and electricity customers that will add £80 to the typical household’s annual bill.

The rises, which kick in on 16 November, will make British Gas the second most expensive supplier in the country after SSE, with customers on its most expensive tariff facing a typical annual bill of £1,336 a year. SSE has already announced price rises of 9%, which take effect on Monday.

The move is a bitter blow for British Gas customers who in August 2011 suffered gas and electricity price rises of 18% and 16% respectively. This was followed by a drop of 5% in electricity tariffs in January.

“Many British Gas customers will find the possibility of a price rise really frightening,” said Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy. “Bill increases throw already stretched budgets into turmoil, with people forced to find more ways to scrimp and save.”

A total of 8.5 million households will be hit by the increase, although a further 1 million British Gas customers on fixed-price contracts will be unaffected.

British Gas blamed the price increase on rising wholesale prices as well as increasing costs related to social and environmental issues.

“We simply cannot ignore the rising costs that are largely outside our control, but which make up most of the bill,” said British Gas managing director Phil Bentley.

“Britain’s North Sea gas supplies are running out, and British Gas has to pay the going rate for gas in a competitive global marketplace. Furthermore, the investment needed to maintain and upgrade the national grid to deliver energy to our customers’ homes, and the costs of the government’s policies for a clean, energy efficient Britain, are all going up.”

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “This is a bitter blow for consumers and comes just ahead of winter when the impact on bills will be even more acute.

“With SSE’s price hike coming into effect next Monday and now Britain’s biggest supplier announcing a rise of its own, the writing is on the wall for consumers this winter – energy bills are going skywards.”

It is widely anticipated that the remaining energy suppliers that make up the “big six” will soon follow suit with similar price rises. E.ON has a price freeze in place until the end of the year but has refused to rule out an increase after that; Scottish Power, EDF and npower are all expected to apply increases in the next two months.

Some householders could still save close to £300 by switching supplier and tariff, but many of the cheapest deals have recently been pulled from the market. Three of the cheapest five tariffs on the market now come from two of the country’s smallest suppliers, First Utility and Ovo Energy.

See if you can save money with the Guardian Money Deals switching service


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Posted by admin -  at 17:34

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Payday loan firms agree to guidelines

Commitments include a promise to increase transparency about repayments and to introduce robust credit and affordability assessments to make sure loans are suitable for the borrower

Payday loan companies have promised to improve the way they sell credit to borrowers under voluntary guidelines agreed with the government.

Lenders have until 25 July 2012 to add the new commitments to their existing codes of practice. These include a promise to increase transparency about loan repayments so borrowers are not surprised by hidden payments, robust credit and affordabillity assessments to make sure loans are suitable for the borrower, and more help for customers in financial difficulty by freezing charges and interest.

Where borrowers have failed to make repayments on the due date, lenders have also agreed to send further regular reminders to customers, to engage “sympathetically and positively” with them, and to split the loan into realistic repayments to be made over a longer period, where appropriate.

Earlier this week, payday loan company Wonga was told by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) it must improve its debt collection practices, after it emerged it had sent letters to customers who were struggling with repayments accusing them of committing fraud.

The voluntary guidelines follow discussions between the government and the four trade associations that represent more than 90% of the payday and short-term loan industry. Lenders not covered by the associations will not be bound by the new commitments. It also stops short of requiring firms to share data about their own lending through the credit reference agencies, something many experts believe would be the most simple and effective way to ensure sensible lending.

Business minister Norman Lamb said the agreement was a “step in the right direction” but that he wanted further action, particularly on the use of continuous payment authorities (CPAs). CPAs are payments set up using a debit or credit card that effectively authorise a company to take payments at random from a card. Such arrangements can often be hard to cancel.

Sarah Brooks, director of financial services at Consumer Focus, said: “We are pleased to see the minister wanting further action on CPAs. We have long-held concerns that lenders rely on being able to dip into people’s accounts, often without their knowledge, instead of ensuring that they carry out proper credit checks in the first place. Debt agencies report that the misuse of CPAs can lead to huge hardship with consumers often not left with enough to pay priority bills such as housing, heating and food.”

Brooks said she welcomed the new codes of practice, but added: “The measures outlined today have the potential to make a difference for consumers, but this very much depends on the detail of what is finally agreed.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive at Citizens Advice, also welcomed the news but said: “To make this really bite we would also like to see the codes monitored independently, with input from consumer groups.”

The four trade associations involved are monitoring compliance with the codes of practice, with the ultimate sanction being expulsion from the trade association.

Payday loan companies are continuing to be investigated by the OFT, which earlier this year launched a review of the sector amid concerns some lenders are taking advantage of people in financial difficulty.

When the OFT report is published it is expected it will require the industry to deliver further measures to address problems with payday lending. The government said it is also considering giving the OFT powers to suspend credit licences with immediate effect, and will make an announcement on this shortly. Currently, it can take years for a lender to lose its licence after the OFT is satisfied it has broken enough rules that it no longer deserves one.

National Debtline said that it received 4,725 calls for help with payday loans in the first three months of 2012, 58% more than the previous quarter and 133% more than the same quarter in 2011.


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Posted by admin - May 25, 2012 at 08:06

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Legal aid reforms face Lords defeat

Peers to introduce dozens of amendments to bill that campaigners say will hit the most vulnerable in society

The government is braced for a series of parliamentary defeats this week over controversial plans to reform legal aid.

The House of Lords is expected to vote against key aspects of the legal aid and sentencing bill that critics say will hit some of the most vulnerable in society. Opposition is said to be similar in scale to that which has met the welfare and NHS bills, both of which have already suffered high-profile defeats in the Lords and exposed divisions between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

The Ministry of Justice says legal aid reforms will save £350m and end an ambulance-chasing culture that taxpayers cannot afford. But the Law Society, the independent body that represents solicitors, claims the measures will limit the ability of many people to secure justice, by making the risks of pursuing legal action too high.

Its sister organisation, the campaign group Sound Off for Justice, warns that “at least 650,000 people” will have “nowhere to turn for legal advice” as a result of the reforms, which have also been attacked by a diverse range of groups including Shelter, Netmums and the Women’s Institute.

Sound Off for Justice estimates 210,000 families and women who previously would have qualified for legal aid in divorce cases will lose out, while almost 50,000 families and couples who benefit from mediation will also no longer benefit. In addition, 6,000 children under the age of 18, 69,000 vulnerable young adults aged 18 to 24, and 32,250 elderly people would no longer be able to access legal aid. An estimated 135,000 welfare claimants who use legal aid to gain access to legitimate benefits will also miss out.

The government has offered concessions on clauses that would have restricted legal aid for domestic violence and clinical negligence victims. But it is facing more than 77 amendments from peers. Sound Off for Justice claims that, if the bill proceeds in its current form, the government will cut 8% from the criminal legal aid budget, compared with a 29% cut in the family law cases budget and a 53% reduction in welfare cases funding.

A GfK NOP poll conducted for Legal Action Group (LAG), which opposes the reforms, to be published, found 82% of people believed that free advice should be available to those with incomes on or below the national average wage. LAG claims there is rising support in all social classes for employment law advice to be paid for by the state, which it attributes to the public’s anxiety over their employment rights due to the economic slowdown.

Steve Hynes, director of LAG, said: “At what point have the government consulted the public on what they want from civil legal aid? The message is very clear from this poll. People believe it is fair for the state to pay for advice on the common legal problems which life can throw at them.”

In the introduction to a new report, to be published tomorrow, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, warns that abolishing legal aid for issues such as welfare benefits, debt, most housing problems and employment will have “a devastating impact” on its ability to provide specialist advice and casework to tens of thousands of people who need help with everyday legal problems.

The Ministry of Justice said: “Victims will be able to receive legal aid to fund the most serious and complex cases, where a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement is not available, and where the failure to provide funding would breach their human rights.”


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Posted by admin - March 4, 2012 at 08:36

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Are you getting the best deal on your gas and electricity bills?

As four of the Big Six announce cuts to energy bills, it’s time to check if you are getting the cheapest deal

Consumers are being urged to check they are getting the best deal on their energy bills after four of the Big Six firms announced they were cutting prices. British Gas has cut electricity prices by 5%, while EDF Energy and nPower have announced that gas customers will get a 5% cut. Scottish & Southern Electricity has cut gas unit prices by 4.5%, but left its standing charge the same, reducing bills by 3.8%.

However, the price cuts only apply to the providers’ standard tariffs, and other deals may offer better value.

According to figures from price comparison website Moneysupermarket, even after the cuts come into effect dual fuel customers on the standard tariff with these companies can save at least £200 by moving to the cheapest deal, an online tariff from First:utility called iSave v9. The average user on that deal will spend £1,030 a year, but that includes a discount of 13% paid at the end of 12 months.

The next cheapest deal, according to Moneysupermarket, is Scottish Power’s Online Energy Saver 17, at £1,085 a year for the average consumer. The tariff offers 8.6% off the firm’s standard charge for direct debit customers until 31 March 2013. There is a £50 charge if you want to switch.

Even if you want to stay on a standard tariff you might still be able to cut costs. Joe Malinowski of comparison site TheEnergyShop.com says that, even after the price cuts, the cheapest online deals offered by Scottish & Southern and British Gas will still be more expensive than EDF Energy’s new standard tariff.

Despite the price cuts, many families are struggling with bills, and this week Citizens Advice is holding Big Energy Week to encourage those in difficulty to take advice. The charity’s chief executive, Gillian Guy, says: “Anyone who is looking to save money on their energy bills; needs advice on fuel debt or wants to check that they’re getting all their help available can go along to any Citizens Advice Bureaux.”


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Posted by admin - January 15, 2012 at 09:44

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