Call for more notice of energy bill rises
Gas and electricity suppliers should be required to give 30 days' warning before putting up prices, the UK energy watchdog said today.
Ofgem said it wanted to reverse current rules that allow energy firms up to 65 days to notify households after they have put up prices.
It hopes the change - which could come into force next January - will "empower" consumers.
The move would also bring to an end the practice for suppliers to enforce bill hikes immediately, while price cuts are often delayed by weeks.
Andrew Wright, Ofgem's senior partner for markets, said: "A month's notice of price increases, along with annual energy statements and better information on bills, will empower consumers by giving them the facts about how much their energy costs.
"This information makes it easier to shop around for a better energy deal and to evaluate the benefits energy-efficiency measures can deliver."
Households are braced for a winter of energy price rises after a report from Ofgem yesterday warned that suppliers were seeing big rises in wholesale costs, which are eating into their profits.
The watchdog expects wholesale prices to increase by 13% by next spring, which, if passed on in full, would see annual gas bills surge by around £81 to £706.
EDF recently announced it was putting up its electricity prices for 1.2 million customers.
Today's proposal for 30 days' notice of an increase follows anger in recent years at energy company behaviour.
During 2008's energy price misery, the industry inflicted a series of tariff increases often at little notice.
E.ON and Scottish Power, for example, both announced double- digit increases in gas and electricity prices in February 2008, but only gave one day's warning.
But as prices have been reduced since then in response to lower wholesale costs, it regularly takes up to a month for the change to come into effect.
This was the case for British Gas's reduction in gas costs in early 2009 and more recently from E.ON and Scottish & Southern.
Ofgem will begin consultation on the new rule this week. If blocked by enough suppliers, the regulator can refer the matter to the Competition Commission, while the Government can also use its powers under the new Energy Act 2010 to force action.
Mr Wright said: "Companies should be under no illusions: we will continue to keep the effectiveness of the energy market under review and will not hesitate to bring forward further measures to protect consumers if the evidence shows them to be necessary."
Audrey Gallacher, head of energy policy at Consumer Focus, said: "Ensuring energy customers get advance notice of price rises is something we have long called on Ofgem to do and it is a welcome move for consumers.
"If people's energy bills are going to go up, of course they should be told in advance, not up to two months later."
She added: "The next step is for Ofgem to tackle the confusing array of energy tariffs consumers have to battle with. It should also address problems with rollover contracts, where people can be unwittingly tied into long deals with expensive get-out clauses."
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 1 Sick elderly man makes 'complete turnaround' after emotional reunion with dog
- 2 Star Wars memorabilia dubbed 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
- 3 Isis fighters 'crucify' 17-year-old boy in Syria
- 4 Ebola cruise ship ‘in utter panic’ as Mexico and Belize refuse to let it dock
- 5 Death of northern white rhino leaves just six of endangered animals left in the world
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
iJobs Money & Business
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...
£50000 - £55000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Relationship M...
Highly Attractive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - BRILLIANT FIRM - You wil...
Day In a Page
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village