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Energy Advice Line supports 'last chance saloon' calls for OFGEM
The Energy Advice Line has supported calls for OFGEM to be scrapped unless it breaks the monopoly of the Big Six energy firms and opens the market up to competition.
Julian Morgan, managing director of the business electricity comparison, switching, and advice service for energy consumers, said reforms of the energy market needed to include the energy regulator itself.
"We have long been saying that recent reforms to the energy market are not worth the paper they're written on unless they're enforced," Mr Morgan said. "We need a regulator with real teeth to ensure that suppliers are implementing these changes to billing, tariffs, and switching procedures to ensure that consumers actually feel the benefits. In addition, OFGEM needs to take urgent action to open up the UK energy market to competition because all these changes are pointless if the Big Six continue to enjoy a monopoly."
"Red tape, onerous financial demands and the fact that the Big Six also produce the energy they sell, make it incredibly difficult for smaller players to enter the market. This has to change and OFGEM needs to pave the way. Breaking the monopoly of the Big Six is long overdue, and if OFGEM can't rise to the challenge it needs to be scrapped and replaced with a regulator that can, and by one that has real teeth."
Ministers have warned OFGEM it is in the 'last chance saloon' and must get more suppliers into the market and find a way to curb the profits of the main suppliers, which have soared while consumers have seen their bills spiral. It is conducting a joint assessment of competition with the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition and Markets Authority, due to report in March.
The Daily Mail reported this week that ministers expected a hard-hitting assessment aimed at shattering the dominance of the Big Six and produce concrete plans to slash bills. A government source told the Daily Mail "OFGEM was set up to regulate the market and protect consumers from being over-charged for their gas and electricity. But it is quite clear that in recent years it has lost sight of this objective. There is obviously a problem and OFGEM must resolve it. We are optimistic that they will but this is last chance saloon. OFGEM need to realise that this competition inquiry is their last opportunity to prove that they get it."
Mr Morgan said that the best advice for consumers was still to take charge of their energy supplies by regularly shopping around and staying appraised of the best deals and products. He said independent and reputable services like the Energy Advice Line not only helped consumers do this, but also offered free advice and support if consumers were in dispute with suppliers, or wanted to know about the cheapest payment options.
"Consumers have no choice any more but to play an active role in keeping their own energy bills down. Many are surprised how much they can save simply by making a phone call."