British Business & Energy Minister berates Big Six for abusing trust of gas and electricity customers

The British energy minister has berated the Big Six UK energy providers – which includes SSE and Scottish Power – for abusing the trust of millions of their customers.

In a speech at the Institute of Energy Economics, Greg Clark, MP, said that loyal and long-standing gas and electricity consumers were ‘punished for their loyalty’ by not regularly switching to alternative independent providers.

He said: “Too many customers, often more vulnerable, are punished for their loyalty, as the CMA in its report made clear.

“They found that as a result, an average of £1.4 billion a year was being paid over recent years more than competitors would pay in what the CMA described as a truly competitive market.

“This view again was confirmed by some of the price rises on the standard variable tariffs that we have seen over the last 12 months that even OFGEM at the time had cause to question and criticise.

“But I think it was also a more basic and philosophical difference in that a well-functioning market and I think consumers look to policy-makers to ensure that the market serves all customers.

Greg Clark, MP
Greg Clark, MP

“I do not think it is compatible with a positive view of the market in which consumers are forced to enter a suspicious, defensive relationship with their suppliers, the requiring to be ever-attentive to the risk of being overcharged, and where a loyalty that some consumers want to place in their suppliers is rewarded with much higher bills than if they did not take that approach.

“As government and regulators we should be working to ensure that markets emerge that do enjoy the confidence of customers and where companies care for their long-term reputations and where it is possible for consumers to place their trust in their suppliers – confident that trust will not be abused.

“In order to take most households on this journey, people will need to feel that they are in the hands of trusted and trustworthy organisations.

“And to achieve this objective is going to take a mixture of rapid reaction by OFGEM… publication of our draft bill to impose a temporary wider price cap on standard variable tariffs is there to address that and –  I would hope – along with more voluntary and unilateral measures from the <Big Six> energy companies themselves.”

His comments are supported by the evidence from his own department’s quarterly survey of public attitudes on energy. This shows that most consumers are less likely to:

  • Trust suppliers to provide impartial and accurate advice on energy efficiency measures (59%)
  • Give them a fair deal (58%)
  • Tell them about the best tariff (55%) or to
  • Improve their home to make it more energy efficient, if asked to do this (54%)

3 Nov 2017

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