Energy giants seen as profiteers, poll reveals

Author: By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

In the online survey of 2,010 people, respondents were asked which of seven statements most accurately summed up how they felt about current gas and electricity prices. Three of the statements suggested prices were high or very high because suppliers did not pass on savings; because of the high international cost of energy; or because of the scarcity of fossil fuels and the depletion of North Sea gas.

Three other statements suggested that prices were “actually quite reasonable”, that respondents did not care about prices, that prices were “if anything, too low” because higher ones would reduce CO2 emissions; the final statement was “none of the above”.

Faced with these seven options, 72 per cent agreed with the statement: “Prices to the consumer are too high, because energy firms do not pass savings on to consumers.” The proportion was the same for men and women, but lower for teenagers and higher for fuel customers over the age of 40.

The second most-chosen statement, backed by 13 per cent of respondents, was that prices were too high owing to the high international cost of energy. Only 3 per cent believed that fuel prices were reasonable. The poll was carried out by the price comparison website moneysupermarket.com.

Last month, The Independent launched a campaign against The Great Energy Rip Off, calling for cuts of 10 per cent and powers for the energy regulator Ofgem to remove the licence of firms which fail to pass on falls in wholesale prices.

In the Commons, Labour MP John Grogan has tabled a motion calling for the Competition Commission to investigate the relationship between household bills and the wholesale prices paid by the Big Six suppliers ? British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, Npower, Scottish & Southern and ScottishPower.

Eighty-five MPs from across the parties have signed Early Day Motion 2147, which has the backing of the shadow energy secretary, Greg Clark, and the Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Simon Hughes. Fuel bills have fallen by only 4 per cent to £1,140 this year, despite a halving of wholesale prices.

In the industry’s defence, the Energy Retail Association says companies cannot lower prices at the moment because they signed long-term contracts last year, when prices were high.

Scott Byrom, utilities manager at moneysupermarket.com, said: “My advice to people looking to stop overpaying for their energy is to scour the market for the best-value deal in their region. Online tariffs have the best prices at the moment, and consumers should be looking at the deals available and making the switch to reduce their bills before the cold winter months set in.”

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