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Millions of Brits in fuel poverty

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Written by:
07/03/2008

Britain’s 4.5 million fuel poor are paying the price for the Government, energy industry and regulator’s lack of ‘joined up thinking’ on fuel poverty, according to uSwitch.

Recent price hikes, averaging 15%,have plunged 500,000 more into fuel poverty, prompting the Government to look at mounting a rescue mission for its fuel poverty targets.

Yet Britain’s big six energy suppliers have less than 400,000 people signed up to their social tariffs and, even if suppliers carry through current intentions to boost social tariff provision, they will still be helping less than one million consumers.

Being on a social tariff doesn’t automatically mean that people will pay the lowest prices either. Only three months ago, three of the big six suppliers were offering lower prices on one of their mainstream plans. This meant that consumers who were on a social tariff, presumably because they were either in or on the verge of fuel poverty, were potentially paying more for their energy than other consumers.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “If the Government is truly committed to breaking the stranglehold of fuel poverty in this country then it needs to work with the industry and regulator. We already know that patchy, piecemeal attempts to tackle this issue do not work. Any measures introduced need to be long-term, sustainable and easy for the fuel poor to access. It’s also vital that they leave scope for innovation and competition between suppliers too.

“Rather than reinventing the wheel, the Government should increase the Winter Fuel Allowance to give immediate relief to the elderly. It should then work with the energy providers to realise the full potential of social tariffs. There must be an industry standard on social tariffs, clear criteria over which consumers should qualify and a guarantee from suppliers that people on social tariffs will always be paying the lowest available price. This would remove the guess work and provide vulnerable households with a real way out of fuel poverty.”
 

 

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