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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Labour to give regulator power to revoke energy company licences

Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Caroline Flint, will today set out 'The Choice facing voters on energy bills and the cost of living between Labour and the Conservatives at the next election.' Building on Labour’s energy price freeze she will announce, that if there is a Labour government after the 2015 election, that government will give a tough new regulator the power to revoke energy companies’ licences where there are repeated instances of the most serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers. The regulator will also be charged with producing an annual ‘scorecard’ for energy suppliers, reporting on the company’s performance and identifying any possible areas of concern. These are part of a wider set of reforms to fix the energy market.

Ms Flint will also reveal new figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which show how the Tories have presided over a broken energy market. Despite Ofgem issuing 30 fines, totalling over £87 million, since 2001, energy companies have continued to mistreat their customers and face another 16 probes into mis-selling, poor customer service and other bad practice. She will also highlight the scale of the rise in energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis since David Cameron became Prime Minister:
  • Household energy bills have risen twice as fast as inflation since 2010.
  • Household energy bills have risen four times as fast as wages since 2010.
  • And household energy prices in the UK have risen faster than almost anywhere else in the developed world since 2010.
This is the latest of a series of summer interventions by the Shadow Cabinet on ‘The Choice’. Caroline Flint will visit the key battleground seats of Reading East and Reading West to outline David Cameron’s failure to tackle rip-off energy bills and how the Conservatives always stand up for a privileged few, the threat they pose for the future, and Labour’s plan to create a fair, transparent and competitive energy market that serves the interests of households and businesses.

On the Conservatives’ record on energy bills, Caroline Flint will say: "These figures lay bare the full scale of the cost-of-living crisis and David Cameron’s failure to tackle rip-off energy bills. On David Cameron’s watch, energy bills in Britain have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other country in the developed world. Households cannot afford another five years of this. At the next election there will be a real choice between another five years of rocketing energy bills, rip-off tactics and poor customer service under the Tories – or Labour’s plans to freeze energy bills until 2017, saving the average household £120, and reform the energy market for the future."

On the announcement that the next Labour Government will give the regulator the power to revoke energy companies’ licences where there are repeated instances of the most serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers, Caroline Flint will say: "The public have a right to be treated fairly by energy companies. Where firms fail to meet these standards there must be tough and decisive action. Too often energy companies seem to view the regulator’s fines as a cost of doing business – not as a warning to get their act together. Of course consumers must be compensated – but if energy companies persist in mistreating their customers they must know their licence could be on the line."

Responding to excerpts of Caroline Flint's speech, a Conservative spokesman said: "We'll take no lectures from the party that brought Britain's economy to its knees. Labour left our country with a broken energy market and huge taxes on bills - meaning the number of people in fuel poverty nearly doubled in Labour's last five years.

"We've been taking action to put this right. We've taken £50 off the average bill by rolling back green levies. We're carrying out a full, independent inquiry to fix the broken market we inherited. And we're forcing energy companies to simplify bills so people can be sure they are getting the best deal. Only our long-term economic plan will deliver the tax cuts and infrastructure we need to keep bills down, keep the lights on and secure Britain's energy future. All Labour offer is more of the same: higher taxes, and unworkable gimmicks which will put prices up in the long run."