New ombudsman eyes energy market

Move has sparked industry outrage, according to report

A new ombudsman has asked Ofgem to authorise it to deliver dispute resolution services for the energy retail market, according to a national press report.

A story in The Telegraph this weekend claimed that Consumer Dispute Retail Limited (CDRL) approached the regulator ahead of a “public consultation” on the provision of consumer dispute resolutions services in the sector.

If CDRL succeeds in gaining Ofgem’s permission, it will compete with incumbent energy ombudsman, Ombudsman Services, to resolve issues for disgruntled consumers.

Ombudsman Services is currently the only formal dispute resolutions provider for the energy retail market as, under Ombudsman Association rules, only one provider is allowed to operate per sector.

CDLR, however, split from the Ombudsman Association in July this year in order to pursue its frustrated ambitions to expand its retail ombudsman offering.

Ofgem said it could not comment on “speculation around submissions for dispute resolution schemes”. The regulator also declined to confirm that a consultation on this matter is planned.

A spokesperson added however: “As part of our statutory duties we assess submissions from organisations interested in running dispute resolution schemes. We review these applications, and where appropriate, consult with stakeholders in line with our standard processes.”

The Telegraph article, published on 17 September, suggested that CDRL’s bid to operate in the energy retail space has sparked outrage among industry experts who questioned the integrity of its leadership.

It notes “early links” between CDRL and former News of the World chief ­reporter Neville Thurlbeck who was jailed for six months for over his involvement in the Milly Dowler phone hacking scandal.

CDRL’s lawyers have subsequently denied that Thurlbeck was ever a company director, saying his name appeared on documents “in error”.