Ofgem: Energy tariff reforms should 'simplify' market

 

Mike O'Connor, Consumer Futures: "The companies will be banned from doing some rather complex, dodgy deals"

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Changes to energy tariffs designed to create a simpler and clearer market are coming into force.

Regulator Ofgem says its banning of confusing and complex tariffs will help to rebuild consumer trust.

Other changes include limiting suppliers to just four tariffs per customer for both electricity and gas, and simplifying how prices are charged.

Energy UK, which represents suppliers, said the changes would "help people get the best deal" on their energy.

Reforms to energy bills

Energy bills generic

From 1 January:

  • Suppliers limited to offering customers a choice of only eight tariffs: Four for gas, four for electricity.
  • Suppliers must inform customers through bills and other forms of communication on what they have done and what changes are planned in a "Treating Customers Fairly" statement.
  • Simpler structure for tariffs: A unit rate and, if suppliers choose, a standing charge.

From 31 March:

  • Suppliers must inform customers of the cheapest available tariff and how much money it could save them.
  • Introduction of a Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR), likened to APR for interest rates, enabling customers to compare tariffs at a glance. The TCR will be measured in pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh) and based on consumption of an average user.
  • Bills and tariff quotes to include a "Personal Projection", forecasting what a customer will pay based on their own usage or supplier's best estimate.
  • Every tariff will contain a "Tariff Information Label" allowing customers easier understanding and a simpler opportunity to compare it.

Source: Energy UK

The moves are the result of a Retail Market Review which began in 2010. However, there are claims that energy bills remain complex for those trying to find the cheapest deal.

'Restore consumer confidence'

Further reforms will be introduced by April, including forcing suppliers to tell consumers which of their tariffs are the cheapest.

Ofgem chief executive Andrew Wright said the changes would ultimately drive down prices.

"Profits are not an entitlement, they should be earned by companies competing keenly to offer consumers the lowest prices and the best service.

"Now it is up to suppliers to build on our reforms to restore consumer confidence in the energy market."

He added: "There are good signs that they are taking up this challenge."

Ofgem will produce an annual report to consumers on the health of competition in the market.

It has said it "will not hesitate to take further action" if it sees "evidence of further barriers to competition".

Angela Knight, chief executive of Energy UK, which represents more than 80 energy providers and suppliers, said: "If you look at the market now, the deals are fewer in number and much easier to compare.

"Customers will see improvements to the information they get as a result of energy companies bringing in the changes set out in the Retail Market Review.

"This should help people get the best deal."

'Choice and simplicity'

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said that the reforms were "a welcome step in the right direction" but added that they did not solve every issue for consumers.

Energy UK's Angela Knight: "We can't be seen to be an industry that is somehow isolated and separate"

"They just do not go far enough to boost competition and help consumers find the cheapest deals," he added.

Meanwhile, Mike O'Connor, chief executive of watchdog Consumer Futures, said: "It would be naive to assume that this will sort out the energy market out once and for all."

But Ofgem's Ian Marlee told the BBC that the changes were designed with customers' views in mind.

"We are responding to what consumers have told us. They want a combination of choice and simplicity," he said.

However, facing accusations that the paperwork surrounding energy bills still remains complicated, he said that the changes made them simpler, rather than simple.

One consideration for customers trying to find the cheapest deal is that some firms will still levy a standing charge while others will not. This charge is designed to pay for the fixed costs of providing energy such as meter reading and maintenance.

The latest reforms follow the introduction in October of new rules for fixed-term tariffs for domestic customers.

Suppliers are no longer allowed to increase prices during the course of a fixed term and must not automatically roll customers on to another fixed-term offer when their current one ends.

Mr Marlee also said that the regulator was planning changes later in the year that would make the market for buying wholesale electricity more transparent. This would make it easier for small, independent suppliers to buy energy to sell on to domestic customers, which would increase competition.

The comments came after Labour's shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, claimed the major energy companies "deliberately inflated" the price they paid for electricity from their own power stations.

But Energy UK said that the research was wrong because the figures could not be compared.

 

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  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 487.

    What an excellent idea. Trying to compare one suppliers apples with another's oranges is very confusing. Clear and simple charging across the industry is what is needed.

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 322.

    suppliers are getting millions because customers cannot choose exactly when their changeover occurs. Hence customers have to allow their contract to 'expire' and be placed on the basic very expensive tariff then apply for change otherwise they face penalties for leaving early. It then takes at least a month before a changeover date is imposed. This has not been addressed in any way shape or form

  • rate this
    +83

    Comment number 269.

    We need one energy company with one tariff.....that's all....the ultimate simplification. Thatcher's privatisation/competition project has failed, and continues to fail all of us.

  • rate this
    -36

    Comment number 199.

    A damming indictment of the education system if people are unable to do the basis maths required to work out a bill!

    Sensible ideas like increasing the cost per unit the more you use are good but would of course make bills more complicated.

    When bills just came as a charge for use people said it lacked transparency, when they are shown how it's worked out they say they can't understand it!

  • rate this
    +75

    Comment number 127.

    Why do energy companies need to have more than 1 tariff? When you pull into a petrol station do you see different prices listed for business and domestic users? Do you see different prices for small users and large users? Of course not.

    The COST to the producers of electricity and gas is the same regardless of who they are providing it to, so the price should be the same for ALL consumers.

 

Comments 5 of 11

 

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