Ofgem defends its role

Ofgem has defended its role in the energy market as a consumer group warned that customers worry whether rising prices are “fair”. The warning comes as SSE became the third […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Ofgem has defended its role in the energy market as a consumer group warned that customers worry whether rising prices are “fair”. The warning comes as SSE became the third Big Six energy provider to increase its gas and electricity prices.

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus said: “Ofgem must get to the heart of whether prices are fair.

“Currently consumers cannot tell whether these increases are justified and that stokes the lack of trust in energy firms. Suppliers point to rising wholesale costs. Yet although wholesale prices have risen recently, they remain around a third lower than their 2008 peak.”

He added that Ofgem must be prepared to ask the Competition Commission to look into the matter. The CC is the independent public body which investigates markets if there is concern that there are barriers for competition.

The energy watchdog rebuffed criticism of its role in a statement: “It is up Scottish and Southern Energy to explain their prices to their customers. Ofgem’s role is to ensure that the market works in the interests of energy consumers. That is why we are pushing ahead with raft of sweeping reforms to the retail market to increase the competitive pressure on the Big Six energy suppliers.”

Ofgem’s proposed market shake up, announced in March earlier this year, aims to improve competition and help to get better prices for consumers.

The statement added: “We also want to break the strangle hold the Big Six have over the electricity market by making them auction up to 20% of their power generation to make it easier for existing smaller suppliers and more attractive for new competitors to enter the market.

“While our reforms are being introduced we will continue to act quickly if we have evidence that energy companies are in breach of their legal obligations.”