The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has condemned comments from Energy Secretary Ed Davey and called for regulatory intervention to stop local shops and other small businesses being taken advantage of by energy companies.
In a letter sent to the ACS, the Energy Minister refused to acknowledge the concerns of small businesses – claiming that businesses “can look after their own interests”. ACS had previously written to the Minister expressing concern that small businesses were being neglected by government.
ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Energy Secretary dismisses our concerns when there are so many shops and other small businesses that are being exploited by energy companies.”
Many of the Association’s members have been the victim of bullying tactics and costly errors by energy companies. Cambridgeshire-based independent forecourt retailer Jonathan James was hit by a back-dated demand for £35,000 from an energy supplier who claimed that it had undercharged him for four years. Jonathan received the demand after he had switched to a new supplier.
The figure was £15,000 more than an initial telephone call from the energy company had suggested it would be. The supplier even threatened to “wind up” his business if he did not pay.
Lowman continued: “ACS has been working with the energy regulator Ofgem to achieve basic rights for small businesses but progress has been frustrated by delay and obfuscation, especially from the spoiling tactics of large energy companies. We urge Ministers to take seriously the need for swift regulation in the energy market to bring small business’ rights in line with that of domestic consumers.”