Price energy bills fairly or else, warns Energy Secretary

10 December 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
Energy companies received further warning last night that their unfair treatment of vulnerable customers must stop, as Energy Secretary Ed Miliband discussed the future of the UK's Energy Department.

Speaking for one of the first times since being appointed as head of a new Department of Energy and Climate Change, Mr Miliband addressed the issue that looks set to hurt vulnerable households the most this winter: energy costs.

He highlighted the need to move away from the "markets-only view of energy policy from the 1980s," and the need for both "dynamic markets" and a "strategic role for government," which should, he hopes, improve competition and the diversity of energy sources in the UK.

And, as the wholesale cost of gas and electricity continues to fall, Mr Miliband urged energy companies to pass the price cuts on to consumers as soon as possible, and to address the issue of unfair pricing to those who stand to suffer the most.

He said: "There can be no excuse for the unfair treatment of the most vulnerable. If someone is forced to use a pre-payment meter, that's no excuse to overcharge them.

"If someone happens to live off the gas grid, that is no excuse to over-charge them.

"If someone lives in an area where a company used to have a monopoly, that's no excuse for overcharging them," he said.

And, if the gas and electricity providers fail to heed this warning and end such unfair practices, Miliband warned that the Government "will use our powers to do so."

Commenting on the MP's threats, energy expert at uSwitch.com, Tim Wolfenson said: "This warning is simply letting the companies know that they need to act quickly if they still want to be able to operate within a self regulatory environment, otherwise regulation could be imposed.

"Whether the Government genuinely has the appetite to wade in if suppliers are seen to be dragging their feet remains to be seen," he concluded.

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