Promising to save households as much as £100 a year, energy suppliers in the UK will be required to inform customers of the most suitable tariffs for them under a new government proposal.
The initiative aims to make the cost of electricity and gas central heating more affordable for households struggling to cope with high energy prices. Millions of people in Britain are affected by fuel poverty, but even affluent homes are finding the cost of maintaining a warm, brightly lit home difficult to bear amid wider economic concerns.
According to plans made public last week, energy firms will provide more detailed information about tariffs for customers from April 2013. Suppliers would be required to tell their customers if they are on the most appropriate, affordable tariffs.
Explaining the new measures, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “We haven’t switched actually over the last year or two and I kind of think we’re probably very typical. You stick to a tariff, you think it’s all a bit complex, you get lots of stuff through the letterbox… all a bit confusing.
“You don’t really then make the effort or take the time to look at how you’re using your energy and what tariff would be best for you”.
Labour believes that the government is doing too little too late to turn around a situation that has been worsening for years. Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint said: “Six months ago, at the energy summit, Labour called on the government to get tough with the energy giants, but all ministers could do was get the energy companies to write to their customers telling them to shop around.
“Our energy market needs a complete overhaul, but this government is only fiddling at the margins”.
Jim Footner, head of energy at Greenpeace, added that merely “tinkering around the fringes of the overly gas-dependent energy sector” is insufficient – the government has to do more to turn the tide on fuel poverty.
One measure that government officials are currently reviewing is the introduction of ‘quick read’ codes, which are printed on energy bills and resemble barcodes. The codes contain detailed information of the customer’s energy habits, enabling him to share information with other suppliers.