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Consumer protection
Since privatisation, a series of official bodies have been responsible for consumer protection including Consumer Focus, Energywatch and the National Consumer Council. Since April 2014 this role has carried out by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland – known as Citizens Advice consumer service. In addition to providing dedicated telephone lines providing advice on consumer protection, these bodies also run campaigns to promote awareness of energy saving measures and means of reducing bills.
Unfair terms in supply contracts can be made subject to enforcement activity by a range of authorities including the Competition and Markets Authority, Ofgem and local authorities’ trading standards departments (see Chapter 14).
Companies can voluntarily choose to compensate consumers who lose out as a result of their wrongdoing. The Energy Ombudsman can also order suppliers to pay consumers up to £10,000 if it deems complaints about sales, bills, supply or switching supplier to be legitimate.
Consumers also have the right to bring their own private legal actions as individuals. You may also seek redress for some aspects of wrongdoing, such as breach of contract, through the civil courts.