'Unfair' energy prices cost poorest customers £540million

18 November 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
Consumer watchdogs, Consumer Focus, Ofgem and Citizens Advice have spoken out over unfair energy costs and how they must be stopped as they continue to hit the poorest customers.

In fact, according to Consumer Focus, prepayment meters have been overcharging people by £540million. Commenting in a company newsletter, Consumer Focus chief executive, Ed Mayo, said:

"This has been a long-standing injustice and we hope that energy companies will take steps swiftly to reduce tariffs for these customers," although he added that more will be required to help the five million people who will struggle to pay their gas and electricity bill this winter.

And Ofgem supports Consumer Focus in its call for fairer energy pricing; in fact, it has given the 'big six' energy companies until December 1 to draft their proposals with regards to helping their poorest customers.

Speaking of the campaign, Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan said: "These are hard times and we are taking a hard line on behalf of disadvantaged customers. We accept that global influences are pushing up costs but the suppliers must change their behaviour and cement consumer confidence."

In response to the obvious disadvantages faced by consumers, Ofgem has also launched its Energy Best Deal campaign in partnership with Citizens Advice and funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The campaign aims to educate consumers and help them to 'participate in the energy market effectively' by making sure they compare gas and electricity suppliers to get the best available deal.

It is also aimed at informing Brits about billing and offering guidance on tariffs including prepayment meters. Commenting, director of public policy at Citizens Advice, Teresa Pritchard said:

"Pilots of Energy Best Deal showed how much people could save simply by switching providers, tariffs or moving off a pre-payment meter, once they had access to clear information from a trusted source.

"Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales have seen a seven per cent rise in enquiries on fuel debt over the last 12 months. By rolling out Energy Best Deal, bureaux will be equipping consumers with the information they need to reduce their fuel bills this winter."

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