Lang speeds up gas price competition

A further 2.5 million homes could be able to choose their gas supplier in October, accelerating the move towards full domestic competition by as much as six months, the Government said yesterday.

However, it also emerged that about 1,500 households in the latest competition trial in Kent and Sussex, which began earlier this month, have complained about problems with the process, casting doubt on whether an accelerated national programme would be trouble-free.

Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, announced changes to the existing legislation, which said national competition cannot start before 1998. The provisional timetable involves the next phase, including Scotland into North-east England, beginning in the autumn with five further stages ending with Greater London the following April.

Most independent gas supply companies taking part in the first two trials in the south of England have been strongly pushing for a quicker timetable. Caroline Harper, managing director of Amerada Hess Gas, said she "wholeheartedly supported" the move.

The decision also represents a victory for Clare Spottiswoode, the industry regulator, who has pressed to speed up competition. So far choice has been extended to about 2 million homes in the South, of which more than 250,000 have moved from British Gas, lured by discounts of up to 20 per cent off bills.

British Gas's pipeline operation, TransCo, argued the new October target represented a "considerable challenge" and said it still preferred to start the process no earlier than next April. The DTI said its new timetable was "subject to the readiness of computer systems", a reference to TransCo's doubts about whether it can speed up the introduction of new computer systems in each of the next phases which track customers as they switch supplier.

The Gas Consumers Council warned problems in the latest south-east trial could hold up competition. The GCC revealed that hundreds of households in Kent and Sussex have either been wrongly moved from British Gas to a new supplier, or have not been switched to a new gas company despite signing a new contract.

Sue Slipman, GCC director, said she suspected either TransCo or the new suppliers had mixed up the customers' addresses and meter numbers.

She added: "We don't think this was down to fraudulent doorstep selling."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk