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Energy bill reform plans criticised

Energy bill reforms unveiled today by the government have been criticised. Photo: Press Association

Energy Secretary Ed Davey set out a series of measures intended to take the heat out of the rising furore around energy bills today.

The new measures are aimed at "putting consumers in control" of the energy market by making it easier to switch suppliers, but critics say the plans resemble "rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic." The measures include:

  • Energy firms must make switching faster - with the ambition of reducing it to 24 hours instead of the current five weeks.
  • Firms must provide Quick Response (QR) codes on energy bills so that smartphone users can switch to the best deals on their mobile device
  • Firms may have to provide information on cheaper tariffs to switching websites
  • They should make every effort to return money to customers with closed accounts

Consumer group Which? said the measures fell below what was needed to keep prices in check. Executive Director Richard Lloyd said:

There will be no great applause from the millions of consumers worrying about rising energy costs for the Government committing to make the regulators simply do their job.

Structural reforms to separate the wholesale energy market from domestic supply, and the Government cutting the costs its policies add to consumers' bills, are needed to effectively keep prices in check.

ITV News' Consumer Editor spoke to numerous people suffering from fuel poverty - defined as spending 10% of income on energy costs.

Pensioners and low income families are the most vulnerable to fuel poverty, and there are concerns that the the reforms announced today do not go far enough to help them.

Labour's shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said the changes "will do nothing to help people with their bills this winter" and called for a price freeze to stop energy companies overcharging.

Hard-pressed energy customers struggling with the cost of living need action now, not endless reviews and consultations from an out-of-touch Government that refuses to stand up to the energy companies. "

What we need now is a price freeze because this is the only way we can deal with the energy companies overcharging.

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