A champion for consumers

News — By on March 5, 2014 4:15 pm

In April 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval, the Government is giving Citizens Advice Scotland a bigger role in speaking up for people on post, water and energy. We’re also taking on a helpline for people with complex energy or post complaints or who are at risk of getting their energy cut off, called the Extra Help Unit. Both of these are currently the responsibility of an organisation called Consumer Futures, which is transferring to Citizens Advice Scotland and our sister organisation in England and Wales, Citizens Advice. It’s part of a Government drive to make it easier for people to know where to turn for help with consumer problems. Citizens Advice Scotland already stands up for consumers on issues like payday loans and used cars – and, together with Citizens Advice, was given more powers and funding to do this in 2013. In 2012 we and Citizens Advice took on a helpline for people with consumer problems, called the Citizens Advice Consumer Service (08454 04 05 06). It also offers advice over email via our self-help website www.adviceguide.org.uk.

Why the Citizens Advice service?

We’ve been helping people with consumer issues, from energy bills to payday loans, for years. People trust us, and know we’re there for them.We look at the problems people bring to our advice services to campaign for change where it’s needed most – so when we speak up for people, it’s on the issues that matter to them. Bringing consumer advice, campaigning and representation together under one roof means people know where to turn and get a more effective champion for their needs. Research shows that Citizens Advice Scotland’s work contributes more than £166 million to the common good in Scotland through things like tacking unemployment, debt and homelessness. We’re looking forward to being able to do even more, together with Consumer Futures, to empower people to solve their problems and save Scotland money.

What extra powers is Citizens Advice Scotland being given?

Citizens Advice Scotland has always provided advice on consumer issues, like loans, and campaigned to get them a better deal and fair treatment. In April 2014 the UK Government will give us formal responsibility for representing consumers’ views to Government, regulators, companies and others with the power to change things. We’ve already been given this power across broad consumer issues such as payday loans, access to legal support and internet access. Next year we’ll get the same power for the regulated industries of post, water and energy when Consumer Futures transfers over to the Citizens Advice service. We’ll also get more powers to ask regulators to investigate bad practice and to request information from energy, post and water companies.

What does Consumer Futures do?

Consumer Futures represents consumers across the regulated markets of energy, post and water. It is the statutory consumer advocate for energy in Great Britain, postal services across the UK and water in Scotland. It uses research and analysis to make the case for putting consumers at the heart of policy-making and market behaviour, solving consumer problems, ensuring their voice is heard and putting affordability and fairness at the heard of decision-making.

It has a number of responsibilities and powers including unique powers to require companies and public bodies to disclose information. To find out more visit their website under ‘Useful at the link below.

What does the Extra Help Unit do?

The Extra Help Unit is a team of telephone caseworkers who help people throughout Great Britain who have complex energy or postal complaints, or are at risk of having their gas or electricity cut off. Each year they help more than 1,000 households at risk of being disconnected from their energy supply, investigate thousands of complaints against energy suppliers and recover more than a million pounds for consumers. In April 2014 the Extra Help Unit will become the responsibility of Citizens Advice Scotland. The Extra Help Unit is a referral-only service. If you’re having problems with your supplier please contact them directly or get in touch with the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or via our self-help website www.adviceguide.org.uk for advice over email or web chat.

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