Chris Huhne to 'get tough' on the Big Six energy providers

20 September 2011

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has said he is determined to "get tough" with the Big Six energy providers, in a speech at the Liberal Democrat conference today.

Mr Huhne said it needs to be easier for customers to switch energy providers and companies should be more transparent with their tariffs.

He accused energy providers of "predatory pricing" - where cheaper deals are only available to online customers - which he insisted is not competitive and must stop.

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He also said the energy regulator Ofgem should have more powers to punish companies for "bad behaviour", including forcing them to pay money back to customers.

Increased competition

Energy companies are delaying action being taken by Ofgem by referring every decision to the competition commission, which can take up to a year. To combat this, Mr Huhne said companies should only be allowed the option of appealing a decision.

As well as promising to take action against the Big Six, Mr Huhne said he wants to encourage new, small firms to enter the energy market.

At the moment, Huhne is just consulting on the plans and no immediate actions will take place as a result of this speech.

He said: "It's not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers, who do not switch, while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market.

"That looks to me like predatory pricing. It must and will stop."

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Ann Robinson, spokesperson for uSwitch, comments: "In a year of double price hikes and soaring fuel poverty, consumers need Ofgem to champion their cause. The hard hitting and meaningful measures announced by Chris Huhne today will allow Ofgem to take its gloves off and will make it even easier for consumers to reject price rises by shopping around for a better deal."

Why isn't ofgem doing more?

Stephen Fitzpatrick, spokesperson for Ovo Energy, echoes this sentiment: "It is time that the industry started listening to its customers and offered them what they've asked for – simple, straightforward and competitive energy. Customers shouldn't have to keep switching energy companies; they should expect to be treated fairly by their own supplier."

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