Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 11:59 UK

New Welsh language law 'may raise energy costs'

Electricity pylons
Scottish Power says its energy retail business could face 1.5m set-up costs

A proposed Welsh language law could cost energy companies millions of pounds and lead to increased costs for customers, a major supplier has said.

Scottish Power will tell Assembly Members it could lead to set-up costs of £1.5m and an ongoing annual bill of more than £500,000.

Under the Welsh Language Measure, energy companies would have to adopt set standards to promote Welsh.

Scottish Power welcomes in principle the measure, due for scrutiny later.

The measure proposes a powerful new commissioner who would be able to force companies such as electricity, gas and telecoms providers to adopt set standards for Welsh language services to the public.

There are some scenarios which could lead to many hundreds of thousands of pounds of costs associated with administrative changes
Scottish Power

It has been hailed by the assembly government as a highly significant piece of legislation designed to promote and safeguard the Welsh language.

Scottish Power, which will give evidence on the potential impact of the measure on its sector, says that it has a strong track record of Welsh language provision and welcomes the measure in principle if the standards are "reasonable" and would not adversely affect its ability to provide a good value service.

But the company added: "There are some scenarios which could lead to many hundreds of thousands of pounds of costs associated with administrative changes, particularly within our energy retail business, due to the complexity of the systems that manage customer contact.

"It is possible that requirements for some of these services could be set at a level which would make the cost of provision disproportionate.

Expressed reservations

"Such requirements could constitute a significant undertaking, affecting all business systems, and potentially our ability to provide our customers with a consistent level of service."

Scottish Power has estimated that a significant extension of Welsh language provision by its energy retail business could initially cost £1.5m, plus ongoing costs of more than £500,000 each year - which, it says, would need to be reflected in tariffs.

Under the measure, the Welsh Language Board - currently in charge of promoting Welsh - would be abolished in favour of the commissioner.

The board has also expressed reservations about the legislation. It says that the model for the commissioner is not one that is used in other countries and has concerns that the role will not be sufficiently independent of government.

The board is also concerned there could be tension between the commissioner's role in promoting the language and the function of enforcement against public bodies and companies who fail to meet service standards.

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