The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced plans to make switching simpler and quicker, bring it down to 24 hours from the five weeks it currently takes without increasing consumer bills, and a new probe into energy firms’ accounts.
DECC Secretary Edward Davey announced the changes will ‘put consumers in control’, enabling them to easily change supplier to save money and making them more transparent on profits and prices.
"Bills are being re-designed through Ofgem’s retail market reforms to give people the information they need to make switching easy – and we are taking direct action through the Big Energy Saving Network to bring first hand help to those vulnerable people who find switching difficult," said Davey.
With respect to faster switching, energy companies will be required to include a quick response code on energy bills, enabling smartphone users to switch to the best deal through a few clicks on a mobile phone.
Davey said the DECC will work with Post Office to direct elderly and vulnerable people to 500 volunteers being trained by the Big Energy Saving Network to assist people in getting the best deal.
According to the plan, the regulator Ofgem will probe into the energy firms’ accounts by carrying out annual competition reviews and the prospect of any market manipulation will make them face tougher penalties, putting an end to opaque finances.
Recently, some firms are said to have allegedly used multiple branches of the same business to purchase fuel from themselves at inflated prices.
Ofgem will monitor the behaviour of market participants annually and ensure the market is working for residential and small business consumers and that all suppliers can compete fairly.
In addition to this, it will carry out a detailed assessment of energy suppliers’ financial reporting practices and set out necessary steps to improve transparency, with the first assessment set to be complete by mid-2014, alongside the first market assessment.
Criticising Ed Davey’s plans Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Sophie Neuburg told the Express & Star that the plan has not taken into account the real solutions such as investment in energy efficiency and a rapid switch to renewable.
"Ed Davey is right, bills are soaring thanks to rising gas prices – but promoting easier switching is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic," said Neuburg.