Energy price concerns grow

Consumers’ are more concerned about their energy bills than ever before, according to DECC’s public attitudes tracker. 59% were worried about energy bills, up from 49% last year. Despite this level of concern the amount of people giving a lot of thought to energy efficiency in the home remains stuck at 26%.

At the same time the big six energy suppliers have been accused of “cold-blooded profiteering” after Ofgem figures showed they had more than doubled their retail profit margins over the last 18 months and were now earning an average of £95 profit per household on dual-fuel bills. Profits per household would reach £100 over the next 12 months. Sam Robertson, a campaigner with Fuel Poverty Action, said, “This cold-blooded profiteering has to stop, but piecemeal market reforms will not go far enough, especially given the threat of a dash for gas that will send bills through the roof.”

According to the consumer watchdog Which? Ofgem’s solution the Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR) wont bring much relief to consumer concerns. They claim TCR could lead to energy consumers paying more than £55 million over the odds with more than 3.4 million energy customers directed to energy tariffs that do not represent the best deal for them. The TCR will provide an illustrative cost for an energy tariff based on medium gas and electricity usage, but Which? claims this will match up to the energy usage of only a quarter of UK consumers. Around 500,000 low energy users could be misdirected to the wrong tariff by using the TCR.

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: “These current proposals are far too complicated and will fail to achieve their aim of making it easier for people to find the best deal, with three quarters of people being asked to compare prices that are not based on their energy usage. The government should introduce single unit prices for each energy tariff so people can easily see the best deal for them at a glance.”

Even if the best tariff mechanism can be resolved, the cheapest price in a rigged market still isn’t much of a deal. Hardly surprising then that a YGov poll showed 61% of people thought electricity privatisation was wrong and the industry should be brought into common ownership.

In Scotland one in four households has ignored utility bills because they could not afford to pay them, sending them deeper into arrears with energy suppliers. More than 170,000 Scottish households owe money to at least one utility provider.

This reflects wider concern over tightening family incomes. All income groups reported a sharper deterioration of their finances in March, and people earning between £15,000-£23,000 were particularly badly hit, as were those renting from local authorities and housing associations.

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