The vast majority of energy customers on dual fuel tariffs are missing out on hundreds of pounds worth of savings as a result of not switching suppliers, according to the initial findings of a major investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The interim report showed that 95 per cent of households with a dual fuel deal with the Big Six energy firms, which include Scottish Gas owner British Gas, SSE and ScottishPower, could save between £158 and £234 a year simply by changing tariffs.
The CMA report warned that vulnerable groups – such as older people aged over 65, people with low income and those living in social housing – were most likely to believe that it was impossible to switch, or never consider doing so.
Fewer than one in five households have changed supplier over the past 12 months, recent figures showed. The report has been described as a “watershed moment” for consumers, who have suffered spiralling energy bills in recent years. The Big Six energy companies all announced cuts to their bills last month amid falling global oil prices – but many have been criticised for failing to pass the full savings on to customers and for delaying the implementation of the new tariffs.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “This is a watershed moment for the energy market as the CMA confirms what we’ve known all along: that competition is not working for consumers. The CMA now needs to develop a set of solutions to repair the market and make it work for everyone, not just the suppliers.”
The report said the number of recorded complaints about the Big Six providers has increased fivefold from 2007 to 2013, with most of the problems related to billing, customer services and payments. It said: “We found that during this period, over 95 per cent of the dual fuel domestic customers of the six large energy firms could save by switching tariff and/or supplier and that the average saving for these customers was between £158 and £234 a year.”
Other consumer groups called for more competition.
James Padmore, head of energy at comparethemarket.com, said: “Whilst the CMA’s findings on the energy market – that loyal customers are overcharged and there are high barriers to entry for new providers – are hardly revelatory, it is important that the competition watchdog is addressing them. The energy market is fundamentally uncompetitive and functions poorly.”
A spokesman for Ofgem said: “Ofgem is determined to make the energy market work for consumers and ensure that there is vigorous competition which bears down on prices and drives up standards of service.”
Tom Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said: “This report confirms that Britain’s energy market is broken and radical action is needed to protect consumers in Scotland.”