- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Assembly Member Joyce Watson has today called for greater regulation of the heating fuel industry to stamp out overcharging “and other dodgy practices”.
Speaking in the National Assembly for Wales, Mrs Watson referred to the case of GB Oils – the company that was successfully prosecuted by Carmarthenshire County Council for overcharging customers in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.
The Mid and West Wales AM asked the First Minister whether the Welsh Government had held talks with the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) and the UK government following the court case and called for greater support for heating oil customers.
She said: “For many people, the first priority for the new year will be sorting through the energy bills and working out how they’re going to make ends meet.”
She asked the First Minister: “Has your government had discussions with the Office for Fair Trading and the UK government about stamping out overcharging and other dodgy practices in the industry, like we’ve seen in west Wales, and what can your government do to support households in my region who rely on expensive fuels that are prone to steep price hikes at very short notice during cold snaps?”
In October the OFT published a report into the off-gas energy market and problems experienced by heating oil and other customers. The study was undertaken in response to the price rises and delays in supply that some heating oil customers experienced last winter.
The First Minister responded, saying the energy industry needed to simplify tariffs to enable customers to compare prices more easily. He claimed the industry needed tighter regulation and greater transparency. The UK government needed “to take this forward”, he said.
In August, Carmarthenshire County Council successfully prosecuted the UK’s largest oil company after it overcharged customers in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire for heating fuel.
Around 400 customers complained about GB Oils after either being charged more than they were quoted or more than they expected after not receiving a quote for domestic heating oil (kerosene) from company depots in St Clears and Llandysul.
Carmarthenshire County Council brought the prosecution and GB Oil pleaded guilty to 17 offences under section six of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2006. The company was fined £51,000 – £3,000 for each of the 17 offences.
In response to the prosecution, the Office for Fair Trading is now examining this and related practices.