EXCLUSIVE: Ofgem says industry must share “responsibility” for breakdown in TPI trust

Energy watchdog Ofgem has told ELN it wants the energy industry to “take responsibility” for the lack of trust which business energy customers feel towards suppliers and energy brokers. “Rogue” […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Energy watchdog Ofgem has told ELN it wants the energy industry to “take responsibility” for the lack of trust which business energy customers feel towards suppliers and energy brokers.

“Rogue” third party intermediaries or TPIs – which are middlemen between customers and suppliers – are meant to be weeded out by plans for new code of conduct, checked up on by an industry-led board.

Last week the regulator brought out its update on these plans – saying brokers will have to sign up to a code.

Today Ofgem explained why it won’t be the sole policeman of energy brokers, instead playing more of a “guiding role” in the sector which has more than 1,000 firms.

Speaking exclusively to ELN, Associate Partner Rob Church said it wasn’t because the regulator didn’t have enough manpower to police the sector.

The senior official described Ofgem’s role as “overseeing the overall arrangements to make sure they’re fair and appropriate.”

He said: “I don’t think it’s a question about manpower and whether we’ve got the ability.

“What we’ve demonstrated and what we’ve published last week is that we are absolutely committed to making sure that there are arrangements in place to improve standards of behaviour by the few rogue TPIs that are out there.”

Acknowledging there’s been a “breakdown in trust” between customers and suppliers, he added: “Industry needs to take some responsibility to rebuild that trust with customers again.”

Not only are energy industry players encouraged to get involved but consumer groups.

Mr Church said: “There’s got to be a role for customer representatives, for suppliers given their expertise and TPIs, we might look at whether there are representative groups of those bodies.”

For any brokers or suppliers keen to have their say, the plan is to hold more working group sessions, while Ofgem will be launching another formal consultation on the updated plans.

Mr Church said: “We have an open door for people to feed in their thoughts.”

Dozens of energy brokers and TPIs had the chance to speak to Rob Church at ELN’s Roadshows earlier this year and he said this was an eye-opener.

After the events and ELN’s Code of Conduct Crusade, Ofgem pushed back the deadline for responses to its consultation on new TPI rules.

Mr Church said: “What we did in response to concerns raised by yourselves and other people was actually take a bit longer to engage with people… It was a really great experience to be invited to go along.”

He noted a “real sense of how committed the vast majority of brokers are, and suppliers are, into actually improving standards which is great and I think is really encouraging.”

The email address for anyone who wants to get in touch on the TPI work is : [email protected]. A copy of the letter Ofgem sent out with details of the plans can be found here.