Amanda McSorley

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.

Have you had a problem at work that you have been unable to resolve with your boss? If so, Citizens Advice would like to hear from you to help find out how fees for employment tribunals introduced in 2013 are affecting workers’ chances of getting a fair deal from their employers.

Industrial tribunals were first introduced more than 50 years ago to protect people at work. Since then, they have grown into employment tribunals and have taken on new responsibilities. Throughout this time they have been free to use, until last year when the first of two major changes occurred:

  • On July 29, 2013, fees of either £390 or £1,200 were introduced for tribunals, with a system of help with fees for those on low incomes.
  • On April 6, 2014, early conciliation was introduced (becoming mandatory from May 6, 2014), so that people had to try ACAS mediation with their employer before taking their case to a tribunal.

Since fees were introduced, Ministry of Justice statistics show that the number of claims being issued for Employment Tribunal has plummeted. Latest figures for the six months from October 2013 to March 2014 show a 73% drop on the same period the previous year.

In July, to mark the first anniversary of fees, Citizens Advice asked its frontline advisers to take part in a six-week survey to look at the impact of fees. Its key findings were:

  • 80% of cases had to have least a 50/50 chance of success to be likely to be pursued to employment tribunal.
  • For claims less than £1,000 in value, less than a quarter were likely to 
be taken forward.
  • Fees or cost were the most common reason for not taking cases forward.
  • The most common bases of claim were unfair dismissal, withholding of wages and holiday pay.
  • One fifth of cases involved discrimination.
  • 40% of clients were potentially eligible for fee remission.

43% were not in employment at the time of their contact with the bureau and 25 per cent were claiming a social security benefit as a direct result of the alleged complaint against the employer.

As part of its Research and Campaigns work, Citizens Advice wants to extend this research to understand how people have experienced the introduction of fees and are asking people to complete a short survey. This will improve the charity’s understanding of how fees are affecting people’s decisions and will help us make recommendations to the Government on how they could improve the system.

Find the survey here. For more information visit Advice Guide.

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.

+ More stories