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‘The poor should pay less for their energy’ says watchdog

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09/05/2007

The poorest households across the country should be paying less for their gas and electricity, according to energy watchdog Energywatch.

It estimates around three million households in the UK find great difficulty in paying their fuel bills and it would like to see the Government forcing energy suppliers to cut their bills.

It suggests that the Energy White Paper forces suppliers to introduce ‘social tariff’ bills to cut bills by up to 20% for the poorest customers – often those on means-tested benefits – while others pay slightly more.

However, the energy companies have responded by stating that such a move should be their choice and not made compulsory by statute.

A few of the energy companies have special deals for poorer customers, but their trade association – the Energy Retail Association (ERA) – says forcing them to take on board social tariffs “was not the answer”.

An ERA spokesperson said that supermarkets were not being told to provide cheaper food for poorer customers.

But Emma Hayles, community worker for a social charity based on a council estate in south Essex, said that cheap energy was “vital” for some of her clients. “Although we had a mild winter this time around, in the past some families have suffered because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes,” she stated.

 

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