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Huhne to help consumers tackle energy companies

Which? says energy move is welcome - but overdue

Chris Huhne

Energy secretary Chris Huhne wants to help consumers tackle confusing and expensive energy bills

Climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne, got tough on energy suppliers in a speech delivered at the Liberal Democrat party conference today – something Which? has long been campaigning for.

Mr Huhne announced a number of changes to the energy market and its regulator, Ofgem, for the benefit of consumers. He called for simpler tariffs and more affordable energy.

Energy price hikes

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: ‘With many people facing price hikes of 10% to 20% this winter, government action on rocketing energy bills will be overdue but welcome.’

In his speech, Mr Huhne said: ‘We are determined to get tough with the ‘big six’ energy companies to ensure that the consumer gets the best possible deal.’ He said energy companies should actively inform customers where and how they could save money.

Which? thinks giving people information on their bills about cheaper tariffs is a step in the right direction. However, Richard Lloyd adds: ‘When 60% of domestic energy customers never switch, the government and Ofgem must now take action to inject genuine competition into the energy market.’

Competitive energy market

Which? thinks that serious questions need to be asked about whether the major suppliers’ customer bases will need to be broken up in order to achieve a competitive market. At present, British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy dominate 98% of the domestic energy market.

Mr Huhne also said he will provide Ofgem with stronger powers so that consumers can be compensated if they are victims of anti-competitive practices.

Energy companies can be fined by Ofgem – up to 10% of their annual turnover – but the money currently ends up with the Treasury. Mr Huhne would like the income generated by fines to be used for the benefit of consumers. This could be in the form of redress or via price reductions in energy bills.

Honesty on energy prices

Which? is currently calling for energy companies to make energy tariffs clearer and more transparent. Even if wholesale prices do increase, with simple tariffs customers can more easily compare prices and switch.

Last week, EDF Energy became the last of the major suppliers to announce gas and electricity price increases.

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