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'We have questions': Energy firms react to investigation

Some of the "Big Six" energy firms have responded to the competition authority's findings that they have been overcharging customers for years.

British Gas, Eon and SSE all said they will look into the findings, with British Gas admitting it has "questions and concerns" about some of the Competition and Markets Authority's proposals to make it easier for customers to switch.

We will now review the material in advance of responding in detail.

Throughout this process and since we first called for a full market investigation in 2011, we have been open and fully supportive of the detailed and thoughtful investigative work undertaken by the CMA and we will continue to provide all necessary and relevant information as we move towards the final report in December.

– Eon spokeswoman

We will now examine today's publications in detail, along with the analysis that underpins them.

We will also continue to work constructively with the CMA as this process continues to help ensure that the opportunity presented by this investigation is fully grasped, and that the final result is an enduring outcome that gives customers confidence, allows regulators to regulate, and encourages investors to invest in the Great Britain energy market.

– Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of energy firm SSE

Energy bills are 'daunting and confusing'

The competition authority has suggested that energy giants take advantage of "confusing" bills that make customers less likely to look into switching suppliers.

It has found that millions of customers are overpaying by around £60 a year.

There are millions of customers paying too much for their energy bills - but they don't have to.

Whilst competition is delivering benefits to increasing numbers of customers, mainly through the growth of smaller suppliers with cheaper fixed-price deals, the majority of us are still on more expensive default tariffs.

The confusing way energy is measured and billed can make comparing deals understandably daunting.

The result is that some energy suppliers know they don't have to work hard to keep these customers.

– Roger Witcomb, chairman of the energy market investigation


How regulator will help energy customers to switch

Millions of households have been paying too much for energy, a year-long investigation by the competition authority has found.

Millions of households have been paying too much for energy Credit: PA

The big six suppliers have been overcharging customers by around £1.2 billion a year - the equivalent of 5% - or £60 - per household.

The Competition and Markets Authority found:

  • Around 70% of households were on default standard variable rate tariffs - despite better deals being available
  • More than 34% of 7,000 energy customers never considered switching
  • Dual fuel customers could save an average of £160 a year by switching to a cheaper tariff
  • A lack of awareness of deals, "confusing and inaccurate" bills and worries over the difficulty of changing supplier put people off switching

Its plans to encourage customers to switch include:

  • Scrapping new rules that restricts suppliers to offering just four tariffs - saying they have in fact ended up reducing competition
  • Prompting customers to shop around by using tools such as smart meters
  • Introducing a price cap on the most expensive tariffs

Millions have been overpaying for energy, regulator says

Energy bills have been 5% higher than they should have been Credit: PA

Customers have been paying about 5% a year -or £60 - too much for gas and electricity, the Competition and Markets Authority has confirmed.

"Lack of awareness of what deals are available, confusing and inaccurate bills and the real and perceived difficulties of changing suppliers all deter switching - and the higher price levels reflect that suppliers can charge higher prices to these disengaged customers," the CMA said in its report.

Its year-long inquiry into the big six energy suppliers focused on prices between 2009 and 2013.

It outlined plans to encourage customers to switch, but stopped short of recommending a break-up of the energy giants, saying competition in wholesale markets was working well.

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