Domestic competition put back for British Gas


Industrial Correspondent

British Gas has won a month's reprieve on the introduction of competition in the domestic marketplace, originally due to start on 1 April in the South-west. The delay, which defers potential price cuts for thousands of consumers, was agreed by the Government after months of lobbying by the company, and has disappointed rival firms who fear British Gas will seek to push the date further back.

Competitors to British Gas, including Amerada Hess, Total Gas and electricity firms, say they are ready to run. One senior executive said: "The reason is purely British Gas. They have done a lot of work scaring politicians and the regulator about what may happen if things go wrong but now we must make sure that the 29th sticks."

Another added:"As always British Gas is last to the gate. Is that sloth, planning or a slip-up?"

British Gas had argued that the computers and other systems needed to cope with multiple suppliers need more time for testing and that there could chaos if competition begins too soon. The company hoped for a postponement at least until June but the regulator, Ofgas, said yesterday that 29 April is "a real date".

Tim Eggar, minister for energy and industry, said: ''It is well known that we had hoped to achieve the formal opening on 1 April. However I am sure the director general [of Ofgas] and her review group, which included leading independent consultants, were right to recommend a four-week deferral in the interests of customers." He said that the delay would allow for the "thorough" processing of licence applications and ensure the required systems are in place." An Order giving effect to the 29 April start will be laid before Parliament shortly.

The Gas Consumers Council said that the deferral "strikes the right balance between risk and reward for consumers".

Ian Powe, director of the GCC, said: "People using an average amount of gas can save no more than a fiver in four weeks by changing supplier; that is a cheap price to pay for reducing the risk of disorder on day one of this exciting adventure."

Competition will cover an area including 500,000 homes, extending to two million in 1997. There had been suggestions that a daily maximum quota of those defecting from British Gas should be established but this has been rejected by Ofgas.

The agreement on a date coincides with the launch of the latest competitor, British Fuels, which is offering savings of about 20 per cent on British Gas standard tariffs. The company, one of the UK's largest fuel distributors, was bought out from British Coal at the end of last year. British Fuels is also offering pounds 150 off the price of a family holiday for those who sign up within four weeks.

In addition to those firms who have declared their interest, several electricity firms are expected to enter the market. The names most talked about include Eastern Electricity, now owned by Hanson, and Norweb.

Reductions on British Gas standard tariffs

Amerada Hess

At least 15 per cent savings for everyone. Reductions cover both standing charges and units of gas.

Total Gas

Savings of between 16 per cent and 19 per cent for the average customer. Both standing charge and unit costs cut. Exact benefit depends on method of payment.

British Fuels

Savings of about 20 per cent. No standing charge.


Savings of 17.2 - 21.2 per cent. Added benefits for direct debit.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Customer Service Executive / Inbound Customer Service Agent

£18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...

ASP.NET Web Developer / .NET Developer

£60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album