Wales

Consumer Futures' call to unite to buy power

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Media captionMerthyr Valleys Housing is talking to its tenants about starting a collective scheme

One in three households in Wales would be interested in joining a group to get cheaper electricity, according to a consumer watchdog.

The idea of collective buying has been launched in Cornwall where it has saved households on average £130 a year.

Now, Consumer Futures - the new National Consumer Council - wants the Welsh government to promote collective switching to help fight fuel poverty.

The Welsh government said it supported helping address rising energy bills.

Merthyr Valleys Housing is talking to its tenants about starting a scheme.

Mike Owen, chief executive of the housing association, has examined the community buying of electricity in Cornwall and is confident it would help tenants in Wales.

"I don't think there are many people in Merthyr that has a had a pay rise at the same percentage as electricity bills have gone up so I think there is a real need for it.

"There are a lot more people on pre-payment meters in Wales who pay a premium so the more people who can join a collective switch the bigger the potential savings could be."

Last winter a series of power companies announced price rises of between six to 10% in bills for domestic customers, more than double the rate of inflation.

Welfare cuts are already affecting many families and on top of that most workers in Wales have experienced several years of seeing their pay running behind price rises - in effect reducing the cash they have.

The theory is that the more people who join, the more discount is offered by electricity companies.

'Fuel poverty'

Consumer Future Wales policy manager Lindsey Kearton said: "We know that many people in Wales are paying more than they need for their energy because they've never switched supplier.

"Our research found that one of the biggest appeals of collective switching, apart from saving money, is that someone else with knowledge of the market would be doing all the leg work to find them a better deal."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We are already doing this.

"We strongly support action that helps address the issue of rising energy bills, particularly for those people on lower incomes.

"Last year the Welsh government funded events in north and south Wales to promote the practice of collective switching to local authorities and registered social landlords.

"The events showcased the different models of collective switching schemes in use in the UK and Europe and demonstrated how collective switching schemes can help to address fuel poverty through lower energy bills."

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