My previous post about supplier lock-in and metered estates generated a modicum of interest, both in the comments and in messages I’ve received directly. It seems that there is a small but significant number of medium-to-large metered estates where the consensus necessary for switching suppliers is rendered impossible by the inevitable turnover in fixed-term contracts. The Competition Commission’s order requires that all residents on a metered estate must be free of fixed-term contractual obligations before a switch can be made.
Rather than updating the original post again and again, I’ll summarise what I’ve found out so far.
- On 13th February 2012 I wrote to my MP (using WriteToThem) asking if there was anything he could do. He replied sympathetically, acknowledged that there did appear to have been an oversight, and requested information from—
- the Competition Commission, who said that they were powerless to act now that the order has been made;
- the Office of Fair Trading, who sent a detailed reply, which despite its length offered little beyond the information contained in its own metered estate FAQ document;
- Charles Hendry MP, the minister responsible for such things at the DECC. In his reply, he refers to the OFT’s ‘practical advice’ in their own reply, and goes on to talk about energy efficiency and affordability measures.
- None of the respondents directly addressed the substantive point: combining unanimity with freedom from mandatory contract periods across a large metered estate is all but impossible.
- I have made a number of Freedom of Information requests (using WhatDoTheyKnow):
- The Health and Safety Executive said that they haven’t received any safety cases from domestic bulk LPG installations, probably because they’re all too small to need one;
- OFGEM told me, with an admirable same-day response, that they’re not responsible for the regulation of LPG and other heating fuels, suggesting that I contact the DECC instead;
- The DECC disagreed, saying that they don’t hold any relevant information—an internal review confirmed their response;
- The Office of Fair Trading didn’t have anything either;
- The Competition Commission effectively refused my request, saying that the information is exempt per s32(2) FOIA 2000 (documents given to or used by persons conducting an inquiry) and s244 Enterprise Act 2002 (considerations relevant to disclosure). The CC’s reply links to some heavily redacted submissions by inter alia Calor, which probably contained the information I want before being edited for publication.
Even if I do manage to collect some data on metered estates, I’m not quite sure what to do next. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to run a protracted campaign even if I knew what to do! The best I can do is hope that the information I’ve collected, and that which is yet to come in, will help some future person fix this problem once and for all.