E.ON energy firm Welsh language law 'price rise'

Utility firm E.ON has warned that its prices may rise in Wales as a result of new Welsh language legislation.

Under the law, private sector firms providing energy, telecommunications and transport will have to provide a bilingual service.

The warning was included in a leaked letter from E.ON.

The letter was part of its role in the recently-ended consultation on the exact standards the companies will have to meet.

In it, the firm says it is likely that the higher costs of providing the new Welsh language services will be mirrored in price rises for all customers in Wales.

As part of the process, the Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws will now look at all the responses in the consultation process.

A report will then go to the Welsh government before a final decision is made.

The leaked letter to politicians is signed by E.ON's public affairs manager Sarah Walker.

The company states: "The proposals (by the Welsh language commissioner) do not appear to allow for a phased introduction of these services.

"Instead the expectation, backed up by fines, is that these services will be introduced over a short period of time.

"We understand and support the overall aim of the consultation to increase the opportunity for Welsh people to use their language in their own country.

'Cost and complexity'

"We are also fully aware and accepting of the fact that we would have to change how we operate in Wales in order to promote the Welsh language.

"Our concern lies in both the cost and complexity of the proposals set out in the consultation.

"We believe that the lack of flexibility in the proposed standards means that the cost of compliance will be high."

The letter said that as a result, it was likely that these increased costs would be "mirrored in price increases for all customers in Wales".

It continued: "In addition, we are concerned that the standards could make the acquisition of new customers in Wales less financially attractive to energy suppliers and therefore reduce customer choice.

"These increased costs could be reduced if energy suppliers were able to match the activities provided in Welsh to demand from their customers.

"We feel an incremental approach to providing Welsh language services would be more efficient and offer greater incentive to develop Welsh language provision further."

The Welsh Language Commissioner's office said it had received 260 responses to its consultation, including one from E.ON.

"The responses are now being considered by officials and will form the basis of a report and revised draft standards to be published later this year," said a spokeswoman.

"The commissioner welcomes the high level of engagement with the consultation process by individuals and organisations alike which will provide an authoratitive basis for the consultation report."

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