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Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]


Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]
Part 1 — The National Consumer Council

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13      

Investigation of complaints relating to disconnection of gas or electricity

(1)   

This section applies to—

(a)   

a complaint by a gas consumer against a gas transporter, in respect of

the disconnection of, or a threat to disconnect, the consumer’s premises

by the gas transporter;

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(b)   

a complaint by a gas consumer against a gas transporter, following

such a disconnection, in respect of a refusal by the gas transporter to

reconnect the premises;

(c)   

a complaint by a gas consumer against a gas supplier, in respect of the

cutting off of, or a threat to cut off, a supply of gas to the consumer’s

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premises by the gas supplier;

(d)   

a complaint by a gas consumer against a gas supplier, following such a

cutting off, in respect of a refusal by the gas supplier to restore the

supply to the premises;

(e)   

a complaint by a gas consumer against a gas supplier, in respect of the

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failure of a prepayment system;

(f)   

a complaint by an electricity consumer against an electricity supplier,

an electricity distributor or a transmission licence holder, in respect of

the disconnection of, or a threat to disconnect, the consumer’s premises

by the electricity supplier, electricity distributor or licence holder;

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(g)   

a complaint by an electricity consumer against an electricity supplier,

electricity distributor or transmission licence holder, following such a

disconnection by the supplier, distributor or licence holder, in respect

of a refusal by the supplier, distributor or licence holder to reconnect

the premises;

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(h)   

a complaint by an electricity consumer against an electricity supplier,

in respect of the failure of a prepayment system.

(2)   

Where a complaint to which this section applies is referred to the Council by or

on behalf of the complainant, the Council must investigate the complaint for

the purpose of determining whether it is appropriate to take any action under

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subsection (3).

(3)   

Where it appears to the Council to be appropriate to do so with a view to

assisting in reaching a satisfactory resolution of a complaint referred to it under

this section, the Council must—

(a)   

provide advice to the complainant, or

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(b)   

make representations on behalf of the complainant to the person

against whom the complaint is made about anything to which the

complaint relates.

(4)   

The Council may refuse to investigate a complaint, or part of a complaint, if—

(a)   

the complaint or part appears to the Council to be frivolous or

40

vexatious;

(b)   

the complaint or part falls within a class of matter which a regulatory

body is under a duty (whether imposed by or under an enactment or

otherwise) to investigate;

(c)   

the complaint or part is being dealt with, or the Council is satisfied that

45

it would be better dealt with, under an ombudsman scheme or any

other redress scheme or in legal proceedings;

(d)   

the Council considers that there has been undue delay in the making of

the complaint or part, or the provision of evidence to support it;

 
 

Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]
Part 1 — The National Consumer Council

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(e)   

the Council considers that there are other compelling reasons why it is

inappropriate for the complaint or part to be investigated by the

Council.

(5)   

The Council may refuse to investigate a complaint until the complainant has

taken such steps as appear to the Council to be reasonable for the purpose of

5

giving the person against whom the complaint is made a reasonable

opportunity to deal with it.

(6)   

In subsection (1)—

(a)   

in paragraphs (a) and (b) “disconnection” in relation to any premises,

means disconnection from a main of a gas transporter or the

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discontinuation of the conveyance of gas to the premises;

(b)   

in paragraphs (b), (d) and (g), the references to a gas consumer or

electricity consumer are references to a person who was such a

consumer at the time the disconnection of, or cutting off of the supply

to, the premises occurred;

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(c)   

in paragraphs (e) and (h), references to the failure of a prepayment

system are references to—

(i)   

a failure in the facilities for payment for the supply of gas or

electricity which results in a consumer with a prepayment

meter being unable to make a payment for the supply of gas or

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electricity, or

(ii)   

where a payment has been made for the supply of gas or

electricity through a prepayment meter, a case where the

supply is not given through the prepayment meter because of a

defect in the meter or in the facilities for payment.

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(7)   

In this section—

“electricity consumer” means an individual who is a consumer in relation

to electricity supplied by an authorised supplier;

“enactment” means—

(a)   

an Act of Parliament,

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(b)   

an Act of the Scottish Parliament, or

(c)   

a Measure or Act of the National Assembly for Wales,

whenever passed or made;

“gas consumer” means an individual who is a consumer in relation to gas

supplied by an authorised supplier;

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“the consumer’s premises”—

(a)   

in relation to an electricity consumer, means the premises to

which the electricity supplied to the consumer by the

authorised supplier is supplied;

(b)   

in relation to a gas consumer, means the premises to which the

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gas supplied to the consumer is conveyed by the gas

transporter;

“redress scheme” means a scheme under which complaints may be made

to, and investigated and determined by, an independent person.

14      

Reference of matters to the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority

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(1)   

In this section references to a complaint are to a complaint within section

11(1)(a) or to which section 12(3) or 13 applies.

 
 

Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]
Part 1 — The National Consumer Council

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(2)   

Where it appears to the Council that a complaint relates to a matter in respect

of which any of the Authority’s enforcement functions may be exercisable, the

Council must refer the complaint to the Authority unless it is satisfied that the

Authority is already aware of the matter.

(3)   

Where a complaint to which section 13 applies is referred to the Authority

5

under subsection (2), the Council is not required to investigate the complaint

under subsection (2) of that section until the Authority has had a reasonable

opportunity to exercise its enforcement functions in relation to the matter to

which the complaint relates.

(4)   

On investigating a complaint, the Council must inform the complainant if it

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considers that the complaint relates to a matter of a kind which can be referred

by the complainant to the Authority under any provision of the Gas Act 1986

(c. 44) or the Electricity Act 1989 (c. 29).

(5)   

In this section—

“the Authority” means the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority;

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“enforcement function”, in relation to the Authority, means any of its

functions under section 28 or 30A of the Gas Act 1986 or section 25 or

27A of the Electricity Act 1989.

15      

Reference of matters to the Postal Services Commission

(1)   

The Council must refer any complaint within section 11(1)(a), or to which

20

section 12(3) applies, to the Postal Services Commission (“the Commission”) if

the Council considers that—

(a)   

the subject matter of the complaint indicates that a condition of a licence

under Part 2 of the Postal Services Act 2000 (c. 26) has been

contravened,

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(b)   

the subject matter of the complaint is a referable matter, or

(c)   

it is appropriate to do so.

(2)   

The Council and the Commission must, from time to time, agree the

descriptions of matters which are to be referred to the Commission and, for the

purposes of subsection (1)(b), a matter is a “referable matter” if it is of a

30

description for the time being so agreed.

16      

Investigations relating to public post offices

(1)   

Without prejudice to the generality of section 11, the Council may investigate

any matter relating to—

(a)   

the number and location of public post offices in England and Wales

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and Scotland;

(b)   

the number and location of public post offices in Northern Ireland.

(2)   

In this section “public post office” has the same meaning as in the Postal

Services Act 2000 (see section 42(3) of that Act).

Other functions of the Council

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17      

Reports by the Council

(1)   

The Council may prepare a report in relation to any matter falling within the

scope of its functions.

 
 

Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]
Part 1 — The National Consumer Council

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(2)   

The Council may publish any report prepared under this section.

18      

Secretary of State’s power to require reports

(1)   

The Secretary of State may direct the Council to prepare, and submit to the

Secretary of State within a specified period, a report in respect of any matter

specified in the direction which relates to consumer matters.

5

(2)   

The Secretary of State may publish any report submitted under this section.

19      

Advice, information and guidance

(1)   

The Council may issue advice or guidance to any person with a view to

improving standards of service and promoting best practice in connection with

the handling of complaints made by consumers or any other matter affecting

10

the interests of consumers.

(2)   

The Council may publish advice or information about consumer matters if it

appears to the Council that its publication would promote the interests of

consumers.

(3)   

For this purpose “information about consumer matters” includes information

15

about the views of consumers on consumer matters.

20      

Duty to enter into co-operation arrangements

(1)   

It is the duty of the Council and each designated body to enter into co-

operation arrangements under this section.

(2)   

In this section—

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“co-operation arrangements” means arrangements made by the Council

and a designated body with a view to securing co-operation between

them, including—

(a)   

the exchange of information between them,

(b)   

the co-ordination of any activities they carry on in connection

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with their functions relating to the provision of advice or

information to consumers, and

(c)   

consistent treatment of matters which affect both of them;

“designated body” means—

(a)   

the Office of Fair Trading;

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(b)   

the Consumer Panel established by the Financial Services

Authority under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000

(c. 8) (“the Financial Services Consumer Panel”);

(c)   

the Consumer Panel established by the Office of

Communications under the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)

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(“the OFCOM Consumer Panel”);

(d)   

a person designated by the Secretary of State by order for the

purposes of this section.

(3)   

The co-operation arrangements must set out—

(a)   

in the case of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, the procedure for

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consulting and making nominations for the purposes of paragraph

1(4)(a) of Schedule 1 to this Act and section 10(5A) of the Financial

Services and Markets Act 2000;

 
 

Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]
Part 1 — The National Consumer Council

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(b)   

in the case of the OFCOM Consumer Panel, the procedure for

consulting and making nominations for the purposes of paragraph

1(4)(b) of Schedule 1 to this Act and section 17(4A) of the

Communications Act 2003 (c. 21).

(4)   

As soon as practicable after agreement is reached between the Council and a

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designated body on co-operation arrangements, the Council and the body

must prepare a memorandum setting them out and send a copy of it to the

Secretary of State.

(5)   

The Council and a designated body must keep under review any co-operation

arrangements entered into by them under this section.

10

(6)   

As soon as practicable after agreement is reached on any changes to co-

operation arrangements, the Council and the designated body to which they

relate must revise their memorandum and send a copy of the revised

memorandum to the Secretary of State.

(7)   

The Secretary of State must lay a copy of any document received under this

15

section before each House of Parliament.

21      

Power to co-operate and give assistance

The Council may make arrangements to co-operate with and give assistance to

any person if it considers that to do so would facilitate or be conducive to the

exercise of its own functions.

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22      

Voluntary activities

(1)   

The Council may provide for any person advice or assistance, including

research or other services, as respects any matter in which the Council has skill,

experience or expertise.

(2)   

The Council may make such charges as it thinks fit in respect of anything done

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in exercise of its powers under this section.

(3)   

The Council may spend such sums as it considers reasonable in the

exploitation of commercial opportunities arising from the activities it carries

on in the exercise of its functions.

(4)   

The Council may—

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(a)   

establish one or more bodies corporate to exercise on behalf of the

Council such of its functions under this section, in such circumstances,

as the Council may determine;

(b)   

acquire an interest in an existing body corporate with a view to it

exercising on behalf of the Council such of its functions under this

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section, in such circumstances, as the Council may determine.

(5)   

The Council may acquire an interest in a body corporate under subsection

(4)(b) only with the consent of the Secretary of State.

23      

Supplementary powers etc

(1)   

The Council may do anything (other than borrow money) which is calculated

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to facilitate, or is incidental or conducive to, the exercise of any of its functions.

 
 

Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill [HL]
Part 1 — The National Consumer Council

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(2)   

The Council must not acquire or dispose of any interest in land, except with the

approval of the Secretary of State.

(3)   

Subsection (2) does not apply to an acquisition of an interest in land under a

transfer scheme (within the meaning of section 35).

Information

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24      

Provision of information to the Council

(1)   

The Council may, by notice, require a person within subsection (3) to supply it

with such information as is specified or described in the notice within such

reasonable period as is so specified.

(2)   

The information specified or described in a notice under subsection (1) must be

10

information the Council requires for the purpose of exercising its functions.

(3)   

The persons referred to in subsection (1) are—

(a)   

the Office of Fair Trading;

(b)   

a designated regulator;

(c)   

any person who supplies goods or services in the course of a business

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carried on by that person;

(d)   

any other person specified or of a description specified by the Secretary

of State by order for the purposes of this subsection.

(4)   

A notice under subsection (1) may specify the manner and form in which any

information is to be provided.

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(5)   

Before giving a notice under subsection (1), or specifying the manner or form

in which any information is to be provided, the Council must have regard to

the desirability of minimising the costs, or any other detriment, to the person

to whom the notice is to be given.

(6)   

If a person within subsection (3)(a) or (b) fails to comply with a notice under

25

subsection (1), the person must, if so required by the Council, give notice to the

Council of the reasons for the failure.

(7)   

An order under subsection (3)(d) may provide either—

(a)   

that subsection (6) is to apply in relation to a person specified or of a

description specified by the order as it applies to a person within

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subsection (3)(a) or (b), or

(b)   

that section 26 is to apply in relation to such a person.

(8)   

The Council may publish any notice received under subsection (6).

(9)   

In this section—

“designated regulator” means—

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(a)   

the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority;

(b)   

the Postal Services Commission;

(c)   

the Water Services Regulation Authority;

(d)   

any other person prescribed by the Secretary of State by order

for the purposes of this subsection;

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“goods” includes land or an interest in land.

 
 

 
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