Editorial – ELN to campaign on TPI code of conduct

I had the pleasure of hosting a consultants event run by Haven Power yesterday at Drax power station in Yorkshire. The theme was exploring the policy framework of the energy […]

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By Sumit Bose

I had the pleasure of hosting a consultants event run by Haven Power yesterday at Drax power station in Yorkshire. The theme was exploring the policy framework of the energy sector as we head to a low carbon future but unsurprisingly, the hot topic of the day was Ofgem’s TPI Code of Conduct.

As you may know we’ve been telling you all about the code since it’s launch last year and today is the deadline for Ofgem’s consultation with the sector over its plans. However it’s clear…. all is unclear about this policy! How will it work? Who will police it? What will the sanctions be? Has the consultation been representative enough?

I have to say the answer to all of the above is err shall we say “unclarified” or perhaps more in keeping with Government speak “in development.”

Maxine Frerk, Partner of Retail Markets and Research at Ofgem was brave enough to reveal the regulator’s sketchy plans to the audience offering three clear scenarios; a voluntary code, a supplier led regulatory body/ ombudsman and finally a full licenced framework.

The first is no more than lip service to the real concern over unscrupulous practices in the brokers market. The final option would mean Ofgem having to find, track, monitor, regulate and punish every brokerage in the country, it simply doesn’t have the resources to do that.

And so Ofgem’s preference, is for the second option – with a regulatory hub led by suppliers who would need to ensure they only do business with the “reputable” players.

But there’s a big problem, suppliers are unlikely to want to become the Sheriffs of Dodgy Broker City, let alone the fundamental conflict as I see it of having a business (supplier), regulating its customers (TPIs), what chance this could become reality? Mmmm lets come back to that one shall we?

The consultation over the last three months was supposed to have heard from the brokering sector, from all areas that are relevant in the debate. But it was very clear hearing from consultants yesterday and from watching Ms Frerk’s response, all is not as it should have been in this consultation…

One broker said his firm had applied to come to one of the many workshops held by Ofgem to give their views but was told there wasn’t room for them. STRIKE ONE! Another consultant said he had attended a consultation only to find they were the only brokers there, the rest of the room was packed with suppliers and price comparison websites. STRIKE TWO! Then the final straw, when it was revealed a broker that operates completely independently, (of any supplier) may find they aren’t able to be sanctioned as “reputable” as they would not be benchmarked/ monitored by a specific supplier. STRIKE THREE!!!!

Now I don’t know about you but this was enough to convince me this consultation hasn’t worked and is in danger of setting up a framework that isn’t right for the industry. So ELN is going to get involved.

The TELCAs were set up last year to improve standards in the consultancy space and reward good practice. Now we are going to take things a stage further.

We will start campaigning to ensure the Code of Conduct works by getting the basics right and that is ensuring Ofgem hears from the people that matter, the brokers and their customers.

Ms Frerk has to her credit said the deadline for consultation will be extend for a week or so, to gauge more opinion but has also committed to appearing on an ELN webinar where we can put your views to her. We will get this organised as soon as possible but more than that, we have a series of TELCA roadshows taking place later this month and we will invite Ofgem to send someone to speak at them.

But most importantly we will be asking for your views and opinions so that we can feed this back to Ofgem.  It’s clear the channels they use to engage aren’t working. ELN is read by the whole energy community. So if you have an opinion on the code and what needs to be done,  get in touch using this email:  [email protected] and we will pass your views on.

ELN’s core is independence and fairness. We want to hold the sector to account but we also want to ensure it is fairly portrayed and I believe by starting this campaign we can do just that.