Will the coalition’s energy plan really mean lower bills?
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Tuesday 20 November 2012
Energy firms will be forced to switch all customers onto the cheapest tariffs, saving people from languishing on expensive, out-of-date deals, Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy, announced today.
Confirming the proposal floated by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons last month, Mr Davey said suppliers would be required to move bill-payers to the least expensive fixed price or variable.
They would also be required to offer just four core tariffs for gas or electricity, instead of the hundreds currently on the market.
“For too long people have been stuck on the wrong type of energy tariff, paying more than they need to,” Mr Davey said.
“Our new proposals will make things much clearer and easier to understand, so that bill payers can get the best deal and feel the benefit in their pockets.”
Consumer groups welcomed the deal - but warned that some people could end up paying more.
Q Why is the Government acting?
In the past two months most of the Big Six suppliers have hiked prices and the average annual dual fuel bill is at a record high - £1,334. Suppliers have been accused of befuddling the public. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says there are 410 tariffs on the market and 650 “dead” tariffs which customers are on, but which are no longer offered to the market.
Q What is it doing?
Plans to force firms to simplify tariffs and switch customers to the cheapest applicable tariff will be written into the forthcoming Energy Bill.
Q How would it work?
Suppliers would be allowed no more than four ‘core tariffs’ for gas or electricity. One of those tariffs would have to be variable – changing in line with wholesale costs – while one would have to be fixed priced, fixed time. Suppliers would be obliged to offer to move all customers onto the cheapest deal for their preference of fixed or variable.
Q What are the benefits?
Millions of customers will pay less. The most expensive quarterly standard payments are up to £300 more than the cheapest internet tariffs. Within the same payment method, customers could save an average of £72 and a maximum of £158 a year. The price people pay for lighting, heat and power will become more equal.
Q What are the drawbacks?
Energy companies will not be able to afford to offer everyone the very cheapest deals available now, so will have to remove or raise the price of those deals, meaning that some customers will pay more under the new system.
Q. Will I still be able to buy green energy?
Yes. The four-tariff limit should mean that renewable energy is still available.
Q. When will my bill change?
By summer 2014 at the latest, according to the Government.
Q. What else can be done?
Consumer groups want an inquiry to see if suppliers are ripping off customers. Which? warned there was “a worrying lack of transparency in the energy market.”
Richard Lloyd, its executive director, said: “We have seen inflation-busting energy bill hikes at the same time as large profit announcements from energy suppliers, so people will rightly be questioning whether they’re paying a fair price for their energy.
“We are repeating our call for the Government to launch an urgent and swift independent review in to what’s really behind the rising cost of energy.”
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said: “All the Government is really doing is reducing the number of tariffs on offer. If energy companies are only allowed to offer one tariff for every type of contract, that’s not the lowest tariff - it’s the only tariff.
“The cheapest energy deal in an uncompetitive market will still not be a good deal. Unless the Government really reforms the energy market, there’s nothing to stop the energy companies just putting up the prices of all their tariffs.
“The time has come for a complete overhaul of our energy market.”
Financial advisers must change “old school” attitudes to reduce the investment gender divide
Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Which? calls for caps on high pension product fees
There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pension Minister
- 1 Autism 'caused by genetics', study suggests
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Why you should never make assumptions about people with autism
- 4 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
iJobs Money & Business
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...
£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...
Day In a Page
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
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