As well as campaigning and organising creative direct actions, Fuel Poverty Action works with individuals and groups threatened by or experiencing fuel poverty to provide information and support to deal with these issues together. We want to build a mutual support network so that we can take on the Big Six bullies and other poverty profiteers together – stopping the installment of unwanted prepayment meters, helping each other challenge energy debt, and taking on landlords who won’t do vital repairs.
The London Coalition Against Poverty have been doing this sort of mutual support and collective direct action on housing and welfare issues for 7 years now. We hope that we can use this model, with tweaks and developments, to take action for our energy rights. You can read about LCAP’s experiences of organising in this way in their pamphlet ‘Building Mutual Support and Organising In Our Communities’.
To help get us started we have produced Energy Know Your Cards, a mini-guide to your rights, and we have been holding Energy Rights workshops. If you would like any of these resources, get in touch with us, fuelpovertyaction[at]gmail.com
If you are struggling with an energy issue and would like to get support with this, and give support back to others in similar situations, send us an email at the above address.
Please see below for the ongoing struggles that would welcome your support and for the successes that we’ve had.
Haringey Housing Action Group have been campaigning for Shian housing association to replace dodgy boilers that have seen residents receive huge bills.
Residents on Myatts Field North estate, Lambeth, are taking action against a Private Finance Initiative which is supposed to be regenerating their estate. Instead of regeneration lead by the residents, they have a 45 year E.ON monopoly of their heating and hot water.
Longtown Action for Heat, Carlisle, have been struggling for two years against solar panels and boilers installed by their housing association which have seen residents’ energy bills soar.
We have been working with English for Action (participatory English for Speakers of Other Languages classes) who have had classes looking at fuel poverty and what we can do about it.
Pensioners 1 vs British Gas 0
In January 2015, after 4 years of fighting their energy supplier, a pensioner couple who Fuel Poverty Action have been supporting for a year finally got the news that British Gas were going to drop their claim that the couple owed the company £11,000.
The couple got in touch via ‘Speak Out On Your Situation’ and told the story of their treatment at the hands of British Gas. For years they had received threatening letters and visits from debt collectors over a debt they assert they did not even owe. British Gas should never even have taken the couple on in the first place, as they cannot accurately bill for the type of meter the couple had. Even with this knowledge, the kept aggressively pursuing the elderly couple.
At the beginning of 2014 Fuel Poverty Action began engaging with British Gas to get a resolution and write- off from the company. First, we demanded to know where the debt had come from and that the company put a ‘block’ on the account so the couple weren’t receiving threats whilst the situation was being resolved. Secondly, we got a pro-bono lawyer involved- this led to the company backing down a little, but still refusing to write the debt off, or concede that the couple did not owe such an amount. Through-out this period we repeatedly referred to legislation that should protect all of us against the energy companies, such as the Back-Billing Clause– which asserts that households do not owe money to energy companies dating back more than a year in the cases where the company is at fault.
Finally, we resolved to threats- which had success! In January 2015, FPA and the couple had had enough of British Gas’ stalling. We said that we would reveal the full details of the situation to the media if they could not finally resolve the issue. Lo and behold, British gas finally promised to close the case and the account.
Throughout 4 years of struggling against British Gas, the pensioner couple had to and did stand up for themselves endlessly. British Gas have truly horrible, constantly threatening the couple whilst also constantly failing to follow through on actions they promised they would when compromises were being sought. The couple are vulnerable according to the definition of vulnerability that energy companies agree to- this didn’t stop British Gas’ aggressive pursuit of money. What did stop British Gas was working together and standing up for each other. It can be difficult and exhausting, but we really think that if we fight prepayment meters, unpayable debts and horrible treatment by the energy companies we can win. If you want to take on your energy company, get in touch! [email protected]