Demise of Energy Champion Leaves Businesses with Nowhere to Turn

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The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is warning that the demise of energywatch in October this year will leave small businesses with nowhere to turn for help and advice with energy contracts.

The warning comes as an FSB snap poll of over 1,000 business owners reveals that 57 percent have made complaints to their energy companies and that only half of those complaints are being dealt with satisfactorily.

With over 30,000 calls from small businesses received every year, energywatch has built up a solid reputation for small business representation in the energy market. But from October 1 2008 it will be disbanded. The FSB is warning that energywatch’s work is unlikely to be covered by Consumer Direct, which will nominally take over energywatch’s responsibilities but has shown little willingness or ability to tackle small business energy issues.

Celwyn Richardson, FSB Cornwall’s Regional Secretary and Energy Spokesman
said:

“This is appalling news. As someone who works with Energy suppliers, I am well aware of the complications within the Energy Supply process and the difficulty a customer has getting to someone in authority when something goes wrong. Consumer Direct do not stand a chance. This whole idea is innocent in the extreme. As it is, most of the suppliers hide behind foreign call centres, and use those operations as “cut out” by then failing to support them by actioning the requests made.”

John Holbrow, FSB environment and energy chairman, said:

“This survey provides damning evidence that some energy companies are still not treating small businesses properly.

“It is sad to see that the government is disbanding energywatch at the very time when its work on behalf of small business consumers is most needed.

“The government has so far failed to ensure that there is an effective alternative in place. With Consumer Direct seemingly uninterested, come October there will be thousands of small business owners with nowhere to turn for help when their energy companies take them for a ride.”

Notes to Editors

Of the 1063 businesses that responded to the question “Have you ever lodged a complaint with your gas or electricity supplier?” 57% said yes and 43% said no. The reasons for their complaints were: billing problems (46%), inaccurate meter reading (21%), customer service (9%), difficulty switching supplier (24%). Only 51% of businesses had their complaints dealt with satisfactorily while 49% did not.

More information about energywatch is available at www.energywatch.org.uk

The FSB is Britain’s biggest business organisation with over 215,000 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the self-employed, and all those who run their own business. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk.

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