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18 February 2015updated 05 Oct 2023 8:45am

Labour puts energy price pressure on the government as loyal customers “are charged more“

The discovery that the big six energy firms' loyal customers save less gives Labour a chance to flaunt its more successful policy plan.

By Anoosh Chakelian

An inquiry has found that loyal customers to Britain’s big energy firms are charged more than others. The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating price levels at these companies, following a referral from the energy watchdog, Ofgem.

It has found that switching to another provider could save 95 per cent of dual fuel customers on a standard tariff up to £234 a year. Vulnerable customers are particularly affected, because they are the consumer group least likely to switch providers.

Another scandal for Britain’s “big six” energy firms gives Labour another chance to put pressure on the government with its energy price freeze (referred to hastily as a “cap” following the plummet in oil prices). Ed Miliband’s surprise announcement of this plan at Labour conference in 2013 was a game-changer, in that it dominated the political narrative and topped the news agenda for weeks afterwards. In spite of the “Red Ed” accusations and assertions that market intervention would never work, any excuse for the party to reiterate this policy is a good one: it’s a reminder of its most successful policy proposal while in opposition.

I remember a Conservative party HQ source months after Miliband’s announcement telling me, bewildered, “that took us completely by surprise, and for a while we had no idea how to respond”.

On the BBC’s Today programme this morning, the Energy Secretary Ed Davey was drawn into saying that he ultimately would not “shy away” from breaking up the big energy companies if the evidence from the CMA’s investigation showed the market not to be working for consumers.

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The shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, was also on the programme, which gave her a chance to further publicise Labour’s energy price freeze, saying the companies should be “hungry for our business” and concluding that, “Labour will sort it out.”

She commented this morning:

This report confirms that Britain’s energy market is broken and that radical action is needed to protect consumers. Energy bills are £300 a year higher under the Tories, and David Cameron has let the energy companies get away with overcharging millions of consumers.

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