We’re all in it together: Last of Big Six energy companies to announce price hikes even as Ed Davey says customers are not ‘cash cows’

Energy Secretary warns firms they are now no better than 'greedy bankers' in public eye

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The Independent Online

The last of the Big Six energy companies is set to announce price hikes that will see higher bills for millions of British customers, even as Energy Secretary Ed Davey demanded the firms stop treating ordinary people like “cash cows”.

EDF Energy said today it will be increasing the average price of its gas and electricity bills by 3.9 per cent from 3 January, with the French-owned group claiming it was “holding back” the full force of growing costs from its 3.7 million residential customers.

Meanwhile, reports in the Daily Telegraph revealed that E.ON will announce its own price hikes by the end of this month, taking the average bill up by around 6.6 per cent or more than double the rate of inflation.

The news that the two companies will be joining SSE, npower, British Gas and Scottish Power in raising prices came as Lib Dem MP Mr Davey was set to tell an energy conference the firms should not be “squeezing” their customers in the pursuit of higher profits for shareholders.

“Trust between those who supply energy and those who use it is breaking down,” Mr Davey said in an extract of the speech released overnight. “It is so difficult for people to work out what exactly they are paying for that they fear the big energy companies are taking them for a ride when bills go up.

“Fair or not, they look at the big suppliers and they see a reflection of the greed that consumed the banks. So this is a 'Fred the shred' moment for the industry. You deliver an essential public service, so your industry must serve the public - and the public must have trust in what you do.”

The minister said the Government was continuing to look into ways it could reduce the impact of its policies on the end consumer.

“But our commitment must be matched by a commitment in industry to open up your books and set out exactly how you are bearing down on your own costs to make bills as low as possible.

“The industry must be much more transparent and Ofgem will have our full support to introduce whatever regulations are necessary to deliver that greater transparency.”

A spokesman for Energy UK said: “The energy industry is already working hard to ensure everyone can keep the lights on and stay warm this winter. The best way to do this is for everyone to work together, which is why this tit-for-tat Punch and Judy show of insults is so unproductive.

“The energy industry is vital to the UK. It is a major employer, a serious investor and a significant taxpayer. As analysis from UBS shows, about 95% of rising energy costs are out of the hands of the energy companies and can be attributed to Government policies and other network, social and environmental costs.”

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