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Compensation could be lost

PUBLISHED: 05:04 18 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 February 2010

THOUSANDS of East Anglians hit by powercuts in October's gales are set to miss out on millions of pounds of compensation – because only a third of those eligible have applied.

THOUSANDS of East Anglians hit by powercuts in October's gales are set to miss out on millions of pounds of compensation – because only a third of those eligible have applied.

At least 70,000 people in the region are entitled to a payout after homes and businesses were blacked out for seven days by the storms, with campaigners saying that total should be higher.

But with 10 days before the January 27 deadline, only 22,000 claims have been lodged – meaning electricity supplier 24seven could escape paying out more than £5m in compensation.

Last night, two local MPs, whose constituencies were badly hit, and an energy watchdog urged people to send in claims – and not to be put off by power chiefs' guidelines.

Consumer group Energywatch urged people to make claims, even if they had been reconnected inside a week, and particularly if they had special circumstances.

"If a person relied on special medical equipment, was ill, elderly, has very young children or had to move to a hotel they should claim, and make those circumstances known to make their case stronger," said a spokeswoman.

Under the normal compensation rules, people off for a week stood to get £300 – £50 after 18 hours, and £25 for every further 12 hours – instead of the £100 on offer, she added.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said anyone who felt they had a justifiable claim should send it in.

He sent 24seven a dossier about problems, containing more than 100 complaint letters from constituents, and later discovered many had not started the compensation process.

He said: "There are not many claims. I am a lawyer and reject 24seven's view that compensation is not payable because it was a major event of nature."

More than 500,000 homes across East Anglia were hit by electricity failures after the October gales.

There was a further storm of protest when, at the height of the gales, 24seven scratched the normal compensation rules – which cut in after 18 hours – and offered £100 for anyone still powerless after a week.

It was also slated for failing to maintain the power network, delays in restoring supplies and poor customer service which saw its switchboard overloaded with calls.

But less than a third of the 70,000 customers who were still without power after seven days have so far sought compensation.

24seven said the low number of claims might be due to people putting it off until the last moment, or simply deciding not to bother having "got over it."

But spokesman Chris Dodson said there was no reason for people to shy away from claiming, even if their power came back on before the 10pm compensation kick-in point on Thursday, October 31.

"If people were reconnected slightly before, or had special circumstances, such as the case of a disabled couple with a stairlift who could not get to bed, we will consider the claims."

About 515,000 customers lost their power in the gales, but 65% were back on without three hours and 86% within 18 hours.

Anyone needing more information about making a claim should call Energywatch on 0845 9060708, Mr Lamb's office on 01692 403752, or write to 24seven at Fore Hamlet, Ipswich IP3 8AA. Or log on to www.energywatch.org.uk

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