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Poor and vulnerable need urgent energy price relief

Poor and vulnerable consumers need immediate financial support to heat their homes and cannot afford to wait for the outcome of government probes into energy companies says Energy Advice Line, the UK’s leading commercial electricity price comparison service.

Energy companies should be forced to offer immediate discounts to the most vulnerable who face the choice of heating or eating as winter 2013 approaches.

Energy Minister Ed Davey recently announced a probe into energy suppliers’ accounts with the aim of increasing penalties for market manipulation and to create an environment to make switching supplier simpler and quicker.

OFGEM’s proposal for an annual review is not soon enough…

OFGEM will also carry out an annual assessment of the energy market, working with the Office of Fair Trading and the new Competition and Market Authority, the first of which will be completed by spring 2014.

Energy Advice Line speaks to consumers daily that are deeply worried about how they will afford to keep warm this winter. The announcement of these probes is very welcome but little use to those who are afraid to put the heating on now.

The government needs to act immediately…

The government needs to immediately implement special measures to help the least well-off, including the elderly. Energy companies should be required to offer discounts to this vulnerable group now, not next spring 2014 when OFGEM’s assessment is done.

This remedy is a quick fix but we need to protect these people now, not next year. We can then get on with the debate about how to fix this broken commercial electricity market for the benefit of all consumers in the long term.

Keeping on top of your energy spend is essential as prices climb higher…

It cannot be too much to ask for all sides of the debate to agree to this measure. Labour leader Ed Milliband’s proposed 20-month price freeze if he wins the 2015 election looks superficially appealing but no detail has been provided on how this will be delivered so cannot even be considered as a viable alternative until the this time. However, in any event, such a price freeze would come too late for those families feeling the cold now.

Energy policy has been at the centre of heated political debate in recent weeks after the after four of the Big Six energy firms announced average price increases of more than 9%.

Mr Davey announced a package of measures including the possible introduction of criminal sanctions for anyone manipulating the energy markets, reducing switching times from the current six weeks to 24 hours, annual assessments, and forcing suppliers to be more transparent about how they report their finances.

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