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Energy Tariffs

Volume 533: debated on Thursday 20 October 2011

One of the main aims of the Ofgem retail market review is to reduce tariff complexity, making bills easier to compare. I welcome these proposals and look forward to Ofgem’s forthcoming consultation on its plans to simplify tariffs and boost competition.

In the light of the news that fewer customers are now switching supplier, despite the proven benefits of doing so, I welcome the Government’s new “check, switch, insulate to save” scheme, but how will the Minister ensure that consumers, particularly the elderly who do not necessarily have access to computers or computer skills, take up the savings available?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. After yesterday’s debate, I think the whole House will be entirely aware of my own inability to switch because of the complexity of the regime online. We have required the energy companies to write to 4 million vulnerable customers this winter so that they understand that they could be on a lower tariff and what more might be available to them in terms of energy efficiency and they get what help is currently available.

We have heard a lot about last Monday’s summit. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government directly asked the big six companies whether they were prepared to freeze gas and electricity prices or indeed reduce them in the future?

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. The important point about the summit was that the industry, consumer groups and the Government were working together. Most of the energy companies have already said that they will freeze the prices right through this coming winter and that there will be no further increases. What we have also looked at is what can be done right now. Sometimes the cynicism—not from the hon. Gentleman but from some of his colleagues—about the measures to check and insulate in order to get the best savings is unfortunate because it means that constituents who could be doing more to help themselves and take advantage of what is already on offer might be inclined not to do so.