UK gas needs 'continuing to be met'

GasThe Government has denied that the UK is on the brink of running out of gas following weeks of unusually cold weather.

It had been reported that there were only two days' worth of gas left in reserve as a result of the cold snap, with gas stocks 10% full, compared to 49% this time last year.
But a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spokeswoman said: "Protracted cold weather increases demand but the UK gas market is responsive and our gas needs are continuing to be met.

"Gas storage would never be the sole source of gas meeting our needs, so it is misleading to talk purely about how many days' supply is in storage."

She said that while half of the nation's gas needs were supplied from the North Sea, there were also pipelines from Norway and elsewhere in Europe, shipments of liquefied natural gas and storage.

"All can and are providing significant gas to meet the UK's needs," the spokeswoman added. "Storage levels are low at the moment - as you'd expect towards the end of winter - and the UK gas market is tight.

"But the market is responding as it is designed to do - gas prices are rising and supply is being maintained accordingly. For example in recent weeks gas has been flowing in from continental Europe in high volumes.

"We are in close contact with National Grid, who are able to step into the market to source gas and increase incentives on gas suppliers if they think there is a risk of a supply shortfall."

A DECC update on gas prices and bills is due to be published next Wednesday.

"We're doing everything we can to minimise the impact for consumers," the spokeswoman added.

The head of energy giant SSE has also warned of the "very real risk" of the lights going out in Britain.
Ian Marchant said the Government was underestimating the problem, as he announced plans to cut back on power generation at five sites because the stations are either uneconomic or coming to the end of their lives.

He said: "It appears the Government is significantly underestimating the scale of the capacity crunch facing the UK in the next three years and there is a very real risk of the lights going out as a result."

He said the energy watchdog Ofgem had recently expressed real concern about the tightening of the UK's generation capacity margin that would follow expected plant closures in the next few years, predicting a 1:12 chance of the lights going out.

"It is unlikely that the majority of the reductions in generation capacity and the delays to new investment we have announced today will have been included in this analysis, which highlights that the situation is likely to be even more critical than even they have predicted."

Energy trader Matt Osborne, of energy analyst firm Inenco, said: "The gas system has been put under immense pressure in the last few months due to a number of factors.

"LNG (liquefied natural gas) shipments into the UK so far during March are just 17% of levels seen last year. Combined with unplanned outages and unseasonably cold weather, the system has struggled to cope on a number of days.

"Storage levels are alarmingly low with Rough Storage, the UK's biggest storage facility, at under 10% of capacity. Today we have seen the interconnector between the UK and Belgium trip off-line and prices rise by over 50% in early trading, with further price rises likely over the next week.

"We face increasing pressure going forward, with dwindling continental shelf production combined with greater competition for LNG."

10 consumer rights you should know
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UK gas needs 'continuing to be met'

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.

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