Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets
The office of the Gas and Electricity Markets regulates the companies which run the gas and electricity networks. Ofgem is governed by an Authority, consisting of non-executive and executive members and a non-executive chair. The Authority's powers and duties are largely provided for in statute, principally the Gas Act 1986, the Electricity Act 1989, the Utilities Act 2000, the Competition Act 1998, the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Energy Act 2004.
The Authority’s principal objective is to protect the interests of existing and future consumers, by promoting effective competition between persons engaged in, or in commercial activities connected with, the shipping, transportation or supply of gas conveyed through pipes, and the generation, transmission, distribution or supply of electricity or the provision or use of electricity interconnectors.
OfGem also has the Consumer First Initiative. One of its main jobs is to involve consumer research to inform key policy decisions. It also entails the dissemination of genuine consumer insight across the organization.
The programme expanded in October 2008 to include a Consumer First Panel, the Panel consists of 100 everyday domestic customers, recruited from five locations across Great Britain. The Panel discuss key issues impacting on their participation in the energy market, as well as other key issues related to energy. The associated Consumer Challenge Group gives informed insight in to high level policy decisions. The Challenge Group consists of six consumer experts who give detailed consumer insight into complex and high level policy decisions.
Consumer Council for Water
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) represents water and sewerage consumers in England and Wales. It took over from WaterVoice on 1 October 2005. CCWater is the statutory water consumer body, and operates as a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. At regional level, it is supported by five regional committees of between six and twenty members within England and one for Wales.
The Consumer Council for Water builds on the service previously provided by WaterVoice. The new organisation has extra duties and more power than its predecessor, which represented consumers from within the regulatory structure of Ofwat. For example, the CCW can publish water and sewerage service information and has powers to request information from water companies and Ofwat. Furthermore, under the Water Bill 2003, Ofwat are subject to a new duty to consult the CCW prior to implementing any key regulatory decisions.
CCWater’s intention is to champion the voice of the water-consumer by making consumers’ views heard and influencing and scrutinising the work of decision makers. They also operate a ‘campaign for change’ to achieve best value for all consumers. CCWater also promote best practice by influencing the water industry to improve service delivery to consumers. They also have similar responsibilities to WaterVoice in regards to resolving complaints and achieving fairness for individual consumers and across the market. Furthermore, CCWater are engaged in research to seek and understand the views of the public. CCWater also aim to educate by building existing and future consumers’ knowledge by providing advice and information, raising awareness and influencing behaviour.
Ofcom Consumer Panel
Public scrutiny of the telecommunications sector (and of Ofcom's performance as regulator) is the responsibility of a special consultative and advisory body, the Ofcom Consumer Panel. It commenced operations in February 2004 to represent the views and interests of consumers. Although it is funded by Ofcom, it is a formally independent 'arm's length' organisation, which sets its own agenda for inquiries and publishes its findings independently. It advises Ofcom on communications issues that affect diverse groups of consumers and citizens, comments on Ofcom's strategies, and undertakes research on emerging issues facing consumers, such as Premium Rate Services.
The Ofcom Consumer Panel is charged with giving advice on standards of service and quality, electronic communications, and the handling of consumer complaints. It monitors the quality of Ofcom's own consultation processes. A crucial aspect of its role is to engage with different groups of consumers (including disability groups, low-income consumers, and people from rural areas). The Consumer Panel also hosts a 'Consumer Forum on Communications', which is a discussion body comprising consumer groups, membership organisations, and others.