Could fuel bills be capped by Ofgem?
Filed under: Utilities
Now the regulator is said to be considering harsher measures, including price caps. So what will it do?
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ConsultingAt the moment it is consulting on the confusing array of tariffs and pricing structures, which leave so many of us casting about in the dark when trying to work out whether we could get a better deal.
It is expected to demand that providers follow the same basic rules when constructing a tariff, with standardisation in the way unit prices work - so they can be compared more easily.
More measuresThe Independent said that the regulator may not stop here. If the energy providers don't comply with the new rules, it could launch a Competition Commission inquiry into the industry. If it was found that the structure of the industry worked to the detriment of consumers, the big six players could be forced to break up and offer more competition in the UK energy market.
Cut your bills
Alternatively it could impose price caps. Ofgem told the newspaper: "Parliament has given us the task of trying to create an effective market where competition is the downward pressure on prices. We think that's the way to go, although we haven't ruled out regulation, particularly for more vulnerable customers, if our reforms don't work."
Price regulation was abandoned in 2002, but the subsequent rises cannot have set the regulator's mind at rest.
Even if the providers follow the rules, it will keep a closer eye on them - and monitor profits weekly rather than monthly.
Going furtherThere are those who would like to see it go further still. Friends of the Earth's Energy Campaigner Paul Steedman said: "Our energy bills are sky-high because the big energy firms are keeping us hooked on expensive and dirty fossil fuels. Tens of thousands of people have joined Friends of the Earth's Final Demand campaign calling for a public inquiry into the Big Six's power. We all lost out because our politicians failed to stand up to the banks - now we're urging them to stand up to the Big Six and make sure we have energy we can all afford."
So what do you think? What will it take to get the energy companies under control? Let us know in the comments.