Chris Huhne urges energy customers to switch suppliers

 
electricity pylon Scottish Power's rise in prices could be followed by other major suppliers

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Consumers should vote with their feet and switch to a different supplier if their power company raises its charges, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has said.

In an interview with the Observer, Mr Huhne said people did not have to take price increases "lying down".

He urged people to hit firms "where it hurts" by finding a cheaper supplier.

Scottish Power has this week announced big rises in gas and electricity prices and there are fears the other five major suppliers will follow suit.

Mr Huhne said: "Consumers don't have to take price increases lying down. If an energy company hits you with a price increase, you can hit them back where it hurts - by shopping around and voting with your feet."

Mr Huhne is expected to announce new measures this week to make it easier for smaller companies to compete in the energy market.

He said: "Right now, only one in five people switch suppliers. I want to see more switching, more competition and more companies in the market.

"The big six only have a few minnows snapping at them, who are kept artificially small. By scrapping red tape for small players they can become serious challengers and help keep bills down."

'Deep concern'

On Tuesday Scottish Power revealed price increases of 19% for gas and 10% for electricity from 1 August, affecting 2.4 million households in the UK.

The company blamed the rises on a sharp rise in the wholesale cost of gas.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has called for talks with the supplier over the move.

He said: "I am deeply concerned at the scale of Scottish Power's price increases and I am seeking an urgent meeting to hear why they think increases of this scale are justified.

"Any fuel price rises have an impact - yet these increases will leave many households, in particular vulnerable consumers, in real, real difficulty."

A spokesman for Scottish Power said the company always co-operated with parliamentary requests and it looked forward to the meeting with Mr Swinney.

 

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  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 108.

    I was lured in by one company with a "cheap" monthly payment only to have that payment vastly increased within months and my usage was no different to the previous year. The earlier respondents are right. It is a cartel by any other name and the watchdog is useless. Why can't somebody get their act together over this? We don't need government hand-wringers, we need action!

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 106.

    I just took out a loan and installed both solar Pv panels (for electricity) and thermal (for hot water). Absolutely the best thing I ever did and I wish I'd done it years ago.

    Imported (expensive ) gas prices will only keep going up. Flipping between suppliers to save cash is just wishful thinking, not a solution.

    Locally produced energy, from a variety of sources, is what will keep prices low.

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 94.

    I'm sick of being told to get this or that 'deal'. I have a life, which I'd prefer not to involve for ever reading tedious advertisements/websites, trying to act as a little business man, and reading small print. In theory competition should bring benefits to all, not just the swappers, because in a transparent uncompartmentalised market the overall price level should be lower. Is it? Some hope!

  • rate this
    +61

    Comment number 44.

    Since the energy suppliers effectively have a cartel there is little point in swapping. Over the years I have switched suppliers several times and in spite of the promises have not really saved any significant amount of money. In fact I have swapped and ended up paying more! If only power was nationalised and run efficiently and not for profit. Mr Huhne you have no idea about the real world.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 41.

    Chris Huhne can help by making unenforeable any contractual term that prevents a customer changing supplier when the supplier puts their charges up.

    I am with Scottish Power and tied to a 12 month contract where Scottish Power's obligation is to charge me at a price that is lower than their standard price. I've switched several times and I support the spirit of Huhne's comment. Make it easy!

 

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