Call for curbs on power of utilities

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The Independent Online
Regulation of the privatised utilities should be overhauled to give more protection to the poor and safeguard the environment better, the National Consumer Council says today. In its response to the Government's review of utility regulation, the council argues that responsibility for issues such as poverty should be taken out of the hands of individual industry regulators and placed directly with ministers.

The NCC says that the present system of regulation is failing the most vulnerable in society. For instance, gas and electricity suppliers are able to penalise the poorest customers by imposing higher charges on those who do not pay by direct debit or in advance.

The submission calls for new and independent consumer bodies for the water, telephone and electricity industries along the lines of the Gas Consumers' Council and the replacement of single regulators with regulatory panels or commissions.

The submission also says there is a case for merging the gas and electricity regulators into one body.

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