Shout to the top

Well, the outcome of our campaign to bring forward energy price cuts has paid some dividends – as at least companies are now saying that energy bills should fall. Just not yet.

I met Deirdre Hutton, Chair of the Food Standards Agency today. Apart from talking food policy, she recalled what she saw as her best days of consumer campaigning in the early 1990s. Along with some big steps forward, she recalled doctors, lawyers and local government all shouting at her! So, I was pleased then to go to the Local Government Association and get a warm welcome. What is more, they are very supportive of action on energy prices, having produced a report last month on energy company profits. Energy suppliers, they reveal, have dramatically increased their dividend payments to shareholders by £257 million over the last year despite claims that high profits are needed for re-investment in energy infrastructure. Dividend payments have risen from £1.378 billion in 2006 to £1.635 billion in 2007, a 19 per cent increase and equivalent to £75 per household.  

Lower energy prices? It’s worth a shout.

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4 thoughts on “Shout to the top

  1. When it comes to energy costs, the truth is that the consumer has no one willing and able to fight for them.
    The Goverment makes a request for price reductions,due to the fall in the price of oil, nothing stronger than that.
    Ofgem is embarrased into holding an investigation, it comes up with the findings that consumers who use prepayment meters are paying too much, a fact that it has known about for years, but done nothing about. More proof if any were needed, that it has totally neglected its responsibility to protect the consumer from unfair practise in the past. It only highlights this now to justify its investigation, it found very little else wrong, and no doubt will give its blessing to the energy companies to recoup the cos from the rest of us.
    Energy Watch voiced its opinion forcibly on behalf of the consumer, but it had no teeth, and now it has gone, Consumer Focus hopefully does the same, but it too will have no teeth, so i ask; Who is willing and Able to fight for the energy consumer?

  2. Hearing a report that 40% of people who switch energy supplier end up paying more it struck me that there could be a standards based approach to solving the problem of confusion marketing in utilities supply.

    If utilities companies could be persuaded or obliged to adopt a standard format for supplying and ingesting data consumers could submit their actual recent usage to a number of suppliers, by email or website upload, and see what they would have been charged, possibly on an assortment of tariffs.

    This approach would work well for gas, electricity and telephone usage. XML would be an ideal technology as it is widely adopted and allows the definition of a standard schema for representing such data.

    As to how such an approach could be introduced I think the Consumers Association, Ofgem and Consumer Focus between you should be able to get something going.

  3. Responding to Deidre Hutton’s commendable comments on energy prices.22/10/08 Recently I had a reply from ofgem on the question on “free market competion” btween the suppliers which stated that although no cartel was in place between them, they did carry out similar strategies upon observation of one and others policies,( which was perfectly exceptable according to Ofgem.!)
    Secondly, according to Ofgem, there is a time lag of 6/9 months allowed on tariff changes to be made which I assume (although not confirmed by Ofgem) that with the oil price sharply down now for sometime to around $60 a barrel, should be very early in the new year. What I don’t understand no one in government ,or opposition either come to think of it, seems to be particularly concerned about this. Is it because the government is expecting the suppliers to pay for their energy conservation policy on housing in return for a free hand on pricing to the consumer?

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