Britain asks Ofgem to devise consumer energy price cap plan

Ofgem sign

Ofgem, the energy regulator, has already capped bills for those on pre-payment meters and yesterday announced that it will extend the cap to 1million more vulnerable households this Winter.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement last week, Ofgem will work with the Government so that all those on standard variable and other default tariffs receive price protection as soon as possible if legislation is in place.

However John Penrose, a Tory MP and former minister, told The Telegraph: "A temporary relative price cap puts the customer in charge, so energy firms compete to offer the best, most creative and attractive deals".

More than 18 million customer accounts in Britain are now on a standard variable tariff or other default tariffs, many of which offer poor value to customers because they are priced higher than the fixed-rate deals available to consumers who actively seek them out.

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At present about 18 million customers are on some form of default tariff, which can cost hundreds of pounds a year more than the cheapest deals.

In the meantime, suppliers must step up efforts to get more of their customers on default tariffs onto better value deals.

The Government says it welcomes Ofgem's move, but claims the regulator could go further to protect everyone on default tariffs from the unfair practices affecting two-thirds of households in Britain.

The bill will be published about mid-morning on Thursday, with the business secretary, Greg Clark, due to to make a statement in the House of Commons.

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The energy price cap marks a regulatory shift in focus away from "switching" as the primary measure of a healthy market.

"The Government dithered for so long, arguing with the energy regulator, before finally being forced to take any action that it seems unlikely consumers will really benefit".

There has also been a guarded welcome for the draft Bill from consumer organisation Which.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: "For millions of consumers anxious about their energy bills, a cap might sound like a positive move".

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"However, the Government must guard against any unintended consequences that undermine customer service and push up prices as a whole".

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