Government set to make it easier to switch energy supplier
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Switching energy supplier will be made as quick as changing mobile phone company or bank under government plans to encourage households to choose the cheapest tariff for their gas and electricity bills.
The move could be announced as soon as today when Ed Davey, the energy secretary, delivers his annual energy statement to parliament.
Coalition ministers have responded to the recent increases in household energy bills by encouraging people to move to a cheaper tariff, which saves people around pounds 140 a year on average. However, the process can take between two and six weeks. It takes a week to switch bank accounts or 24 hours to change mobile phone service provider.
The government is under intense pressure to bring down energy costs amid soaring household bills and Labour's promise to freeze prices if it wins the next election.
Davey will set out details of a competition review of the energy market reporting next spring, which is likely to be conducted by the energy regulator, Ofgem, the Office of Fair Trading and the new Competition and Markets Authority. On top of this, David Cameron has pledged to roll back green levies on bills.
However, yesterday the prime minister was accused by Zac Goldsmith, a prominent Conservative backbencher, of "rolling over" and allowing the agenda to be set by the big six energy companies - British Gas, npower, E.ON, SSE, Scottish Power and EDF. The Richmond Park MP said Cameron and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, should not be letting the companies blame green levies for rising bills. "It does appear the big six have managed to completely set the agenda," he said. "All of us are looking at what is a less significant part of the bill, ie the green measures, much of which is actually non-negotiable . . . as opposed to looking at the structure and mechanics which have led to these enormous monopolies being able to engage in what many people regard as bullying behaviour."
In a parliamentary hearing, Michael Fallon, a Conservative energy minister, said he agreed with Goldsmith that the big six should "not be allowed to get away with" misbehaviour, and said he expected Ofgem to be asking tougher questions.
Yesterday in the Commons, Cameron said he wanted an immediate inquiry into competition in the energy industry. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, criticised him for suggesting a lengthy inquiry that would simply delay action to reduce household bills.
"You want a review on energy policy but that's exactly what the energy companies want," Miliband said. "A long inquiry, kicking the problem into the long grass."
Larry Elliott, page 26 =
Leader comment, page 36 =
Energy secretary Ed Davey will deliver his autumn statement today, outlining an energy market review next year
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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