Letter: Gas prices to fall - for the well-off

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The Independent Online
Sir: The news that a further 2.5 million homes could be able to choose their gas supplier in October ("Lang speeds up gas price competition", 18 March) is hailed as a victory for the industry regulator.

All the evidence is that the new gas suppliers in the domestic market are courting predominantly middle- and higher-income home-owners who pay for their fuel by direct debit. Competition is based solely on price, with no evidence of more efficient use of energy, or of action to promote this.

Meanwhile, consumers who use prepayment meters for home heating continue to be denied access to the benefits of competition. They may be predominantly on low incomes and living in the poorest housing, but they do pay in advance for their gas. Yet on average the new gas suppliers charge these people 20 per cent more for their gas than a customer on direct debit (and up to 34 per cent more).

Those who find it hardest to pay are charged the most. This is the unacceptable face of competition.

ANDREA COOK

Director, National Energy Action

Newcastle upon Tyne

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