The Office of Fair Trading is to investigate the supply of energy to consumers who are not connected to the main gas grid.
The probe will look at whether the market is working for ‘off-grid’ energy consumers who use sources such as heating oil, LPG and renewable energy sources like solar panels.
The OFT has brought forward its study into this market, which was in itsdraft 2011/2012 work programme, following discussions with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to allow time to consider any recommendations before next winter and in light of increasing public concern about aspects of the market.
The OFT is now consulting on the scope of the study which it proposes should cover the whole of the UK and consider a number of themes, including how well competition provides choice for consumers at a local and regional level and whether the terms and conditions of supply provide consumers with clear information, competitive prices and fair terms and conditions.
Heather Clayton, OFT senior director of infrastructure, said: “Two and a half million people rely on off-grid energy and it is vital that the markets that supply them function as well as they possibly can.
“We will be taking both competition and consumer issues into account through this comprehensive look at the market.”
Responding to the OFT decision to bring forward the study, Energy Minister Charles Hendry said today: “Many off-grid energy consumers have been hit hard by high prices and supply issues this winter. I am keen the reasons for this are thoroughly investigated.
“I very much welcome the Office of Fair Trading’s decision to bring forward their work which will look at the effectiveness of the off-grid energy market so we can assess what steps may need to be taken well ahead of next winter.”