Amanda McSorley

amandamcsorley

Amanda McSorley joined the Research and Campaigns Team at Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau in February 2013. She is a former journalist and newspaper editor, with 30 years’ experience of covering the issues that impact people’s lives.


Do you have a prepayment meter for your home fuel needs? If so you will be paying around £80 a year more for their energy than direct debit customers while getting a poorer service and facing a greater risk of being cut off.

Prepayment customers have little or no choice of energy tariff and limited means of topping up their metres. When things go wrong with meters or their keys, users experience a poor customer service to put things right.

Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau is collecting evidence for a national campaign, Fair Play for Prepay, to get a better deal for pay-as-you-go energy customers.

Our research so far shows that 1 in 6 people will self-disconnect from their meters because they cannot afford to top up or get to a top-up facility.

Half of prepayment households have children and almost half of advisers who dealt with a meter problem for clients referred them to a food bank.

If you have a meter you can help by taking our survey to help Citizens Advice establish patterns of energy use in winter and you can sign our petition.

As the statutory consumer watchdog or energy customers Citizens Advice is campaigning for the following on behalf of all meter users.

A better price

  • Pay-as-you-go is the cheapest payment method available.
  • Free access to near real time electricity use, account information in pounds and pence, details of standing charges and debt repayments 
to help customers budget and become more energy efficient.
  • An equal amount of pay-as-you-go tariff options compared 
to other payment methods

More control

  • A choice of ways to top up such as by phone, text, or online
in addition to cash top-ups over the counter at a convenient location.
  • Switching supplier to/from pay-as-you-go is made easier and free of charge – no more security deposits and fees for meter exchanges.
  • Free low credit alerts – a text or alarm on the smart energy display 
to warn when credit is low.
  • A ‘lifeline’ supply of electricity or gas at all times, even when 
a customer has been unable to top up their meter.

Easier use

  • No more misdirected payments.
  • No more cards or payment keys that need to be inserted in the meter, which can be lost, stolen or broken at a cost and inconvenience 
to the customer.
  • A free 24hr helpline for mobiles and landlines.

Amanda McSorley joined the Research and Campaigns Team at Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau in February 2013. She is a former journalist and newspaper editor, with 30 years’ experience of covering the issues that impact people’s lives.

I’m not sure I like our adoption of the American Black Friday tradition, but it does let us know the Christmas season is well and truly with us.

In the States, it is a retail-led promotion designed to get people spending their money again after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) that started in the 1950s in Philadelphia. The city’s police department christened the day due to the chaos caused by shoppers flocking to store sales at the same time as spectators travelled to the annual Army versus Navy American football match.

Over here it was started in 2010 by Amazon, and over the last four years other major retailers have followed suit, offering Black Friday deals designed to whip us into a shopping frenzy. They have been very successful too – Amazon reported sales beyond all its expectations from last Friday, while websites of other retailers such as Currys were swamped and police were called to tackle shoppers fighting over goods in London and Manchester.

The busiest retail weekend of the year is bound to have some other consumer casualties too, and Citizens Advice is here to help.

With two-thirds of people expecting to do a least half their Christmas shopping online this year it is important they are aware of their rights and earlier this year new distance-selling rules came into force to protect cyber shoppers from hidden fees, late delivery and rip off costs.

People need to be aware of these rights – CAB’s own research found that three out of four people did not know they could cancel an online order or return an item within 14 days and get a full refund, including delivery costs.

New consumer law also means that even if what you buy is in Spain, you will have the same rights as if they were bought on your local High Street. From today (Monday, December 1) Citizens Advice will be holding a Question and Answer session on the charity and consumer champion’s Facebook page until Wednesday to answer any questions about shopping online and people’s consumer rights.

You can check your online shopping rights at Advice Guide and from Monday, December 1, have a look at #CABXmas on Twitter for Citizens Advice’s top tips for buying and sending gifts this Christmas.

If you need help sorting out a consumer problems this Christmas, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

Amanda McSorley joined the Research and Campaigns Team at Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau in February 2013. She is a former journalist and newspaper editor, with 30 years’ experience of covering the issues that impact people’s lives.

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