Cheaper energyMove to open EU energy markets spells cheaper bills

04 April 2006

A gas ring

Legal moves to open up European energy markets are predicted to save British gas and electricity consumers billions of pounds a year.

The European Commission will today announce dozens of court challenges to monopoly energy industries in member states.

Last month Chancellor Gordon Brown blamed soaring gas prices in the UK on the anti-competitive practices of some European energy giants. He said such practices were adding GBP 10 billion to UK gas costs.

Energy giants 'blocking competition'

A European Commission report has already said that Denmark, the Netherlands and France have done much to meet existing EU agreements on liberalising energy markets. But it says many other countries have done little.

Today's crackdown will involve the launch of legal actions concerning alleged breaches of EU rules. The allegations include price-fixing cartels and the blocking of access for new suppliers to established energy markets.

Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour said: 'The European Commission is right to take drastic action to clamp down on the energy giants who are using their size to block competition and distort the market in their favour.

'People on fixed incomes and pensioners can ill-afford higher heating and electricity bills. By taking action now, the commission will hopefully be able to activate market forces to encourage real competition that will drive down prices.'

British Gas welcomes move

British energy supplier Centrica, which owns British Gas, welcomed the move.

Group Finance Director Phil Bentley said: 'The failure of some to implement a competitive market continues to make sourcing realistically priced gas via the Continent extremely difficult. As a result, we have seen soaring gas prices costing UK consumers around GBP 10 billion extra this year alone.'