Energy firms ‘failing over social tarrifs’

energyConsumer Focus, the new consumer watchdog, has called on utility companies to boost their social tariffs or risk facing government legislation.

The move comes in response to energy regulator Ofgem’s probe into the energy market, which was published on Monday (October 6).

The consumer lobby group has replaced Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (NCC). It says EDF Energy and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) are the only companies from the “big six” suppliers that are offering the best tariffs possible to fuel-poor customers.

Consumer Focus programme leader Richard Bates says: “At present, only two suppliers are committed to ensuring social tariffs are the best tariffs they can offer. This should be the minimum standard that all suppliers must meet.

“After giving suppliers ample time to up their game voluntarily, the Government must ensure the minimum standard is mandated.”

A Scottish Power spokesman says the company is looking into tariffs but is waiting for the end of Ofgem’s consultation in December before “firming things up”.

E.on says that it “doesn’t have a social tariff as such”, but will be launching a product by the end of the year.

Ofgem defines a social tariff as equal to the best price a company can provide. Its guidelines for social tariffs were published in July.

Consumer Focus chief executive Ed Mayo says: “Customers throughout the country will be seriously worried about fighting emasculating energy bills through winter while the regulator consults with industry. We urge energy companies to take action now by boosting their social tariffs.”

British Gas, npower and EDF Energy were unavailable for comment as Marketing Week went to press.

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