Energy pricing is failing the fuel poor, says report

The removal of price controls on gas and electricity has failed to benefit the fuel poor, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). A report, to be published later today, will increase pressure on the Government to force energy companies to pay out more to vulnerable customers.

The report will say Britain’s decision to remove price controls in 2002 allowed energy suppliers to introduce complex tariffs without providing reliable information to customers.

But British Gas says it is “doing more than its fair share”. A spokesman adds: “The others aren’t even doing half of what we are doing.”

Industry regulator Energywatch said in January that if all energy suppliers spent the same proportion of their turnover as British gas on the fuel poor, an additional £72m would be generated.

British Gas currently spends 0.49% of its turnover on vulnerable customers. The second biggest supplier, e.on, spends 0.16% of its turnover on the fuel poor, while npower and Scottish & Southern Energy spend 0.07%.

A Scottish & Southern Energy spokesman says: “The support we provide for the fuel poor is very strong. We think our responsible attitude to pricing does an awful lot to prevent customers moving into fuel poverty in the first place.”

Alistair Darling (pictured) said in his Budget statement earlier this month that he wants energy suppliers to triple funding to at least £150m a year to help the poorest customers.

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