An IGT, or independent gas transporter, is a private company that builds and maintains gas line networks from the gas distribution network, or GDN, to homes and business. According to Ofgem, the regulatory body that oversees gas and electricity firms in the UK, over one million households in the UK are serviced by IGTs. However, many a head of household is unaware that they aren’t connected directly to the GDN and that they could be paying more for the privilege. Furthermore, while there is no substantive difference in the quality of the gas itself, some government organisations have raised concerns about the companies that supply it.
Independent gas transporters make a good deal of their profit supplying new lines to contractors, and in fact, many new housing developments built since 1995 use these lines. This may not be ideal for homeowners, however, as the independent gas transporters charge monthly fees for access long after the contractor has gone. In fact, some homeowners must pay this premium in the form of higher utility bills for as long as they live at the address.
Many smaller energy firms in the UK charge customers for access to pipes maintained by independent gas transporters. They do this simply because both the GDN and independent gas transporters charge them to access their pipes, and they are not as able to absorb these fees as the large established firms. If you are with a non-“Big Six” energy firm, you may be paying up to Â£70 per year for access to private gas mains. The larger energy suppliers are quick to point out in their new tariffs that they don’t charge IGT fees, which is a boon to consumers on these lines as they are now free to shop around without fear of incurring additional charges.
Consumer Direct, a department of Consumer Futures, has raised concerns over the billing practices and administrative policies of independent gas transporters on several occasions. Specifically, the organisation is concerned with complaints they’ve received about surcharges, and they have found that these surcharges varied drastically in amount. Furthermore, there is typically little or no explanation of what the surcharges are for on the utility bill. Consumer Direct has advised Ofgem that they should look into the matter although Ofgem already places limits on the type of fees that these businesses can charge. Generally, according to Ofgem, independent transporters are not allowed to charge significantly more for access to their pipes than the GDN would.
A further concern is that IGTs use widely different systems for recording and storing customer data. There is no industry standard among them, and therefore many of these systems are incompatible with Xoserve, an agency that serves as a central database for gas companies.
According to Consumer Direct, many of these companies’ systems are not compatible with one another. This can result in errors in recording customer data or accounting issues. Consumer Direct has received numerous complaints from customers about this issue, and the primary cause appears to be that many independent gas transporters maintain two separate billing systems: one for customers who only use their lines and another for customers who access the lines of other transporters. These bulky systems can lead to customer confusion and frustration.
Ofgem is working closely with these companies to resolve these issues in a timely manner, and the organisation is confident that a streamlined, uniform system will be developed that is fully compatible with Xoserve.
How to Tell
You can determine if you are serviced by one of these companies by locating the gas meter number on your bill, or M number. This number is typically located on the first page of your bill, but this varies from company to company. If it begins with the digits 74, 75, 76 or 77, your gas is supplied by an independent transporter. While you cannot change who supplies your gas, you can choose your utility company. There are many online price comparison tools that you can use to determine which energy tariff is best for you. Note, however, that these calculators do not take into account any fees that energy companies might charge to send gas through an independent transporter’s pipes.
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