Crackdown on energy bill price hikes
Energy suppliers have been warned they may be forced to give customers advance notice before they put up prices.
Currently, energy suppliers are allowed up to 65 days to notify a customer following a decision to increase prices. If a customer is notified after the event, then suppliers must allow them to switch supplier and avoid any backdated increase.
However, the energy regulator says this timeframe is considered a “backstop” - and that best practice is to notify customers in advance.
Amid concerns that energy suppliers are not giving customers enough notification of price changes, it now plans publish a consultation before Easter on amending the statutory time limit.
Under the proposed new rules, Ofgem may insist on energy suppliers notifying customers of price changes in advance. Alternatively, it may reduce the time limit from 65 days to 10.
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The change is part of Ofgem’s drive to make energy bills and tariffs more transparent for customers.
“While it is virtually unheard of for a supplier to take the full 65 days, there is still room for improvement and a shorter timeframe would definitely be a step in the right direction,” says Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com.
Giving customers advance notice of price changes would give them plenty of time to find an alternative deal, agrees Scott Byrom, utilities manager at moneysupermarket.com.
"The current situation is a huge worry for British bill payers; it allows over two months ‘grace period' for the energy giants to notify customers of a price hike which is far too long,” he adds.