Enforcement action can include provisional and final orders being made, where appropriate, for breaches of licence conditions and relevant requirements under the Gas Act 1986 and the Electricity Act 1989.
Provisional orders are made with the intention of bringing an end to an apparent (or apparent likely) breach of a licence condition or other relevant requirement and addressing an urgent need to remedy harm caused by that apparent breach. Making a provisional order does not imply a conclusive finding that the regulated person has breached a licence condition or other relevant requirement.
A final order would usually be made at the conclusion of an investigation or at another stage when the Authority is satisfied a breach has occurred, whereas a provisional order is usually made at an earlier stage, where it appears there is a breach and there is a greater urgency to address that apparent breach.
Circumstances in which a provisional order may be made include where it appears that a regulated person is not taking steps to secure compliance, where behaviour needs to be stopped urgently, or where consumers (or other persons) are suffering continuing harm.
For example, provisional orders have been used previously in the following circumstances:
• to prevent serious harm to customers of one energy company who were at risk of having their supplies cut off during cold weather
• to require an energy company not to disconnect customers and to provide the option of prepayment meters for customers in payment difficulties
• to require an energy company to lodge sufficient credit, pay any outstanding debts, and send us a business plan, updated monthly, on the measures it has taken to comply with industry code payment and credit requirements.
A provisional order will lapse if the Authority does not confirm it within three months of it being made. In contrast, once a final order is made, it does not need to be confirmed by the Authority to prevent it lapsing. The Authority does not have to undertake consultation prior to deciding whether to make a provisional order, but must consult before it decides whether to confirm a provisional order. The Authority must consult before it decides whether to make a final order.
The Authority need not make a final order, or make or confirm a provisional order, if the regulated person has agreed to take, and is taking, appropriate steps to comply with the relevant licence condition or requirement, or where the Authority considers that the breach is trivial.
If a regulated person fails to comply with a final order, confirmed provisional order or does not pay a financial penalty imposed on it by the Authority, we may decide to revoke its licence.
Further details in relation to our powers to make and confirm provisional and make final orders can be found in the Enforcement Guidelines.
Links to any current and past provisional orders can be accessed via the list below.