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Energy firms agree to public questioning


As gas customers reel at accusations of price-rigging against the big energy firms, The Independent has linked with Policy Review Intelligence to bring together the key players to discuss a fair energy deal for consumers.

At a major Fair Energy summit next month, bosses of at-fire energy firms British Gas and E.ON have agreed to face questioning from consumer groups, regulators, charities and journalists.

The debate will be led by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, while representatives from Which?, Age UK and Save the Children will line up with the chief of energy watchdog Ofgem and senior officials from Co-operative Energy and the IPPR think-tank.

The aim is to discover what is really behind the rising cost of fuel, which have seen home energy bills rocket from £500 in 2006 to around £1,300 now.

In fact British Gas customers will feel the heat from this Friday, when the company inflicts its latest increase of 6 per cent.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, yesterday distanced itself from the growing gas price fixing scandal by revealing that its traders are not allowed to price information to price reporting agencies.

It was one of the price agencies which sparked the latest price-fixing scandal. ICIS Heren gave evidence to Ofgem of suspect trading on 28 September.

Meanwhile a former trader at the firm told the Financial Services Authority that there have been several attempts to distort prices.

In response to the claims, Centrica said: “It is in everyone’s interests that there is a well-functioning and orderly wholesale energy market. Centrica has very robust governance and compliance policies, which regulate its market participation and behaviour.”

The firm’s UK boss Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas said that he was keen to debate the concept of fair energy against the background of continuing anger and accusations against the energy industry.

“We’re doing all we can to help households keep their energy costs down,” he said. “Consumers want to know that the price they pay is fair and the best deal available.”

Meanwhile Tony Cocker, UK chief at E.ON said: “We all need to work together to make a real and positive difference to Britain’s energy experience. We want customers to be confident that they are paying a fair price for the energy they use.”

The summit will be held in Westminster on Monday 17 December and Independent readers are invited to send in their questions and comments beforehand – to yourmoney@independent.co.uk - as well as during a live internet broadcast.

Gavin Hayes, editorial director at Policy Review Intelligence said: Energy continues to be a major public policy and consumer concern. We need an informed dialogue with all the key stakeholders to come up with practical solutions to help ensure that consumers are getting a fair energy deal.”