Consumers need action now on energy market
After the Competition and Markets Authority found loyal customers were routinely being charged more by energy companies, Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint says it is time for "radical action".
This morning's report from the independent Competition and Markets Authority confirms everything Labour has been saying about energy bills: Britain's energy market is broken, millions of consumers are being overcharged and radical action is needed.
Energy bills are £300 a year higher under the Tories. The number of families with children who cannot afford their energy bills is at a record high. Time after time, David Cameron has ignored warnings about rip-off energy bills, opposed Labour's plans to reform the energy market and create a tough new regulator, and let the energy companies get away with overcharging millions of consumers. Households and businesses cannot afford another five years of this
The report highlights two specific problems – both of which Labour has highlighted in the past. First, when the energy market was originally privatised energy companies inherited customers from the former state-run suppliers. More than twenty years on,
as an investigation I undertook and which was published in the Independent on Sunday in 2012 showed, about half of the public are still with the same supplier. This gives the big energy companies huge market power. Second,
as I highlighted more than a year ago, energy companies are systematically charging some customers more than others – even when they use identical amounts of energy. This is a real problem for loyal customers and vulnerable customers, and it highlights the lack of competition in the energy market – because in a competitive market you would expect to see companies competing to retain their existing customers, as happens in lots of other industries.
So I welcome today's report. Indeed, the only reason we’re even having a full market investigation is because of the spotlight Ed Miliband and the Labour Party have put on the energy market. In fact, before Labour announced our price freeze, the Government rejected the idea of a competition inquiry.
But consumers need action now. The final report from this investigation won't be published to the end of the year - and any reforms to the energy market would need to be implemented after that. Consumers need action now. That's why, alongside whatever the CMA recommends, the next Labour Government will freeze energy prices until 2017, so that bills can fall but not rise, give the regulator the power to force energy suppliers to cut their prices and end overcharging once and for all.
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