Utilities Intermediaries Association
The Utilities Intermediaries Association (UIA) is a trade body for UK Third Party Intermediaries (TPIs) in the business energy sector. Registered with the Trade Association Forum it is a company limited by guarantee and runs as a not-for-profit organization, which all TPIs; also known as energy brokers or consultants, (Energy switching services in the UK), which facilitate the purchasing of electricity and gas between their clients and energy suppliers can join. Business energy TPIs work on behalf of businesses, providing a range of services such as procurement, query resolution, bill checking and energy management etc. in exchange for fees usually factored through the energy suppliers. This had led some TPIs to compromise their neutrality so they can earn the most commission through bias toward the suppliers that pay the most.
The UIA exists to work with the various organisations involved in the uk energy industry, with the aim of improving consumer confidence when undergoing a purchasing program for their energy. Associate membership is open to all TPIs and takes a minimum of 3 months to complete before any application for full accredited membership can be considered and providing they meet the standards of operation set by the association itself.
Whilst the assessment process is rigorous, the UIA mark is not necessarily a 100% guarantee that a member's charges will remain totally transparent and unbiased. To do this would require a rigorous and ongoing assessment process in which members' websites are continually monitored and customers contacted on a random basis to ensure their energy broker is complying with the UIA Code of Practice. In the absence of any complaint by the public, the degree in which members' websites are actively monitoring for compliance to UIA Code of Practice is uncertain. Prior to engaging an energy broker it is important to request that the energy broker confirm they are independent, unbiased and exactly what their charges are. The UIA however does have a robust complaints process that enables the customer in the absence of an acceptable solution, to be referred to the independent customer redress scheme that forms part of the UIA Code of Practice and which the offending broker pays for.
Membership fees for the UIA work on a sliding scale to enable the very small broker through to the very large the opportunity of membership. As such there are a range of fee schedules which are not published on the website but can be obtained upon request and the provision of the most recent annual commission turnover on the enquirer's gas and electricity supply contracts. Alternatively, any TPI can sign to the Code of Practice and customer redress scheme outside of trade association membership via the TPI register for a set fee of £380 per annum .
From the UIA website:
- "The Utilities Intermediaries Association (UIA) will enhance the reputation of this sector of the industry and give confidence to those who seek to use their service. It will do this by producing and maintaining a register of Consultants and Brokers who meet and continue to meet the Associations requirements and agree and operate to the Code of Practice. It will maintain the processes whereby users of their services who become dissatisfied, can seek redress."
The Boatmark and Code of Practice
All members of the UIA agree to adhere to a strict code of practice regarding the way in which they operate. Being a Full accredited member allows the TPI to display the UIA 'boatmark' on their website or other communications, to give confidence to their clients and customers that they will follow the Code of Practice.
There are currently 31 fully accredited members as listed on the UIA's website.
The UIA along with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the Forum of Private Business condemned the decision of Ofgem not to outlaw rollover energy contracts, which would tie business users into another contract if they did not terminate their current contract within a specified period. On 18 January 2010, Ofgem introduced new rules to protect smaller businesses, known as micro-businesses. The rule, known as Condition 7A, protects these businesses in 3 ways:
- A statement of renewal terms must be issued approximately 60 calendar days before the end of any contract.
- A notification window of 30 days must be given to contact the supplier when companies wish to switch supplier or negotiate a new contract.
- Contracts can only be rolled over for a maximum period of 12 months.
- Fuel giants rig market for business by paying secret commission to independent brokers Daily Mail, 30 September 2008
- The Utilities Intermediaries Association homepage
- UIA Fully Accredited Members
- Small businesses call on Ofgem to outlaw rollover contracts Utility Week, 9 September 2009
- Ofgem Condition 7A