The Big Six energy companies are the “best filibusters in the business”, the Managing Director of Ovo Energy said.
Stephen Fitzpatrick (pictured, right) made the accusation when the big UK energy players and small suppliers – Ovo Energy and Co-operative Energy – appeared before a panel of MPs yesterday.
They were grilled by the Energy and Climate Change Committee to justify the recent hikes in gas and electricity prices.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he was “somewhat confused” by the energy price rises in the last few weeks from his competitors and claimed the Big Six maintained “an illusion of competitive pricing”.
He added: “It looks to me like a lot of energy companies, a significant number of the Big Six, are charging the maximum price they feel they can get away with to the customers that they feel will not switch under any circumstances and then maintaining the illusion of competitive pricing with tariffs targeted towards a very small number of relatively well-engaged customers.”
SSE kicked off the round of winter price hikes followed by British Gas, npower and ScottishPower. EDF Energy and E.ON however have yet to raise prices but CEO of E.ON Tony Cocker yesterday pledged to “hold our prices as long as we can”.
He also called for a competition commission investigation to show they are not acting as a cartel.
The Big Six firms were also accused of “abuse” by driving up prices, with Labour MP Ian Lavery saying it was an “absolute outrage” that people “in one of the richest countries in the world” were forced into fuel poverty by eye-watering bills in the heated exchange.
The energy bosses, however, blamed the increase on green taxes, the cost of transporting energy and rising wholesale prices while defending their profits and insisted they sympathised with families struggling to pay their bills.
Neil Clitheroe, CEO of ScottishPower said an “energy price rise is the hardest decision we take” but added there have been “inherently contradictory energy policies” in the country.
The energy firms also denied cross-subsidising their businesses and argued they were investing billions of pounds in Britain.
Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee noted energy firms were acting as a “monopoly” and that there was little sign of competition in the industry.