Energy companies must be made to stop ripping off customers – Jo


Jo has pressed the Energy Secretary on ensuring energy companies give consumers the fairest deal.

Jo spoke in Parliament to welcome recent Government moves to help customers save money on their energy bills, including making sure that consumers have clear information on how to access the cheapest tariff.

However, Jo pointed out that energy suppliers should have to compensate customers where they have failed to direct them to the cheapest tariffs. In response, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said that unlike the previous Labour government, action would be taken to ensure effective consumer redress in the next Energy Bill.

Commenting, Jo said:

“Gas and electricity prices are on the rise, so it’s vital that people in East Dunbartonshire and beyond get a fair deal when it comes to their energy bills.

“A recent Which? investigation uncovered the appalling behaviour of the ‘big six’ energy companies, finding that they failed to offer the cheapest tariff in a third of calls. This is simply unacceptable at a time when people are struggling to pay their bills.

“This Government has put measures in place to ensure energy companies show their customers how to save money, but where people have already lost out, the energy companies should pay. I welcome the Energy Secretary’s assurance that this Government will take action to incorporate consumer redress into the law.”

 

  1. The full text of Jo’s questions to the Energy Secretary and his answer is as follows:

Energy Tariffs

5. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with energy suppliers on the provision to consumers of information on how to access the cheapest tariff. [75588]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne): We have negotiated a voluntary agreement with suppliers to provide consumers with a prompt on their bills to cheaper deals this winter, and an additional communication to their customers who pay by cash or cheque to let them know how much they could save by moving to the cheapest direct debit tariff. There is also a commitment from suppliers to assess the impact of the prompt on bills and to improve it in the light of this evidence.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Last week a Which? investigation uncovered the appalling behaviour of the big six energy companies, finding that they failed to offer the cheapest tariff in a third of calls. I welcome the moves announced this week, although I remain slightly cynical about the willingness of the energy companies to give consumers the fairest deal. Ofgem currently has the power to fine energy companies, but surely it should also be able to force companies to pay compensation in cases such as those highlighted by the Which? report, where they have effectively been mis-selling and providing inaccurate information.

Chris Huhne: I consider mis-selling to be a very serious offence, and it is a matter for the independent regulator Ofgem to investigate. As my hon. Friend pointed out, Ofgem has the power to fine energy companies. When customers have lost out, I expect energy companies to pay compensation. Unfortunately, Ofgem currently does not have the power to force companies to give consumer redress, despite the last Government having 13 years and several energy Bills to give it that power. This Government are not going to sit on our hands, unlike those on the Opposition Benches. We are carefully considering legislation on the issue as part of the next energy Bill.


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