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Government signals extension to cap on energy bills

Officials are also considering proposals to automatically switch households from expensive to cheaper tariffs

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Customers who switch energy suppliers can save hundreds of pounds every year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Customers who switch energy suppliers can save hundreds of pounds every year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Customers who switch energy suppliers can save hundreds of pounds every year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Government has set out proposals for a shake-up in the energy market which it promises will save customers money.

New legislation is being planned to keep the energy price cap in place beyond 2023 “if needed”, it said.

The price cap on energy bills limits the amount some customers can be charged, if they are on their supplier’s default tariff.

It was designed to protect those who are least likely to shop around for better deals.

Since being introduced in January 2019, the price cap has forced bills down as suppliers race to attract more customers. Around 15 million households directly benefit, saving between £75 and £100 on their energy bills each year.

The Government is also looking at other plans which it hopes will increase competition.

They include trials to automatically move customers from expensive to cheaper deals, unless they opt out.

These will take place in 2024, the Government said.

It also plans to create a framework for opt-in switching, which would actively inform customers on expensive deals that they could be better off elsewhere.

A study by regulator Ofgem showed that customers who are contacted in this way are five to 10 times more likely to switch their energy supplier.

“We want to unleash a wave of competition within the energy market and keep energy bills low so households across the UK can keep more money in their back pockets,” said Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

“Although more of us are now shopping around for the cheapest tariffs, the existence of better deals on the market is not sufficient in itself to drive consumer behaviour. That’s why we will make the switching process even easier so we can tackle the ‘loyalty penalty’ and ensure everyone pays a fair price for powering their homes.”

Some critics of the energy price cap had feared that, by limiting the price of default tariffs, households would be less inclined to switch supplier – which could provide even bigger savings.

However, between 2016 and 2020, the number of households switching energy supplier rose from 4.4 million to 5.8 million.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The price cap prevents loyal customers who don’t switch from being ripped off by their energy supplier.

“The Government’s commitment to keeping the price cap in place until such protections are no longer needed is good news for customers. It is especially important at a time when many households face significant financial challenges resulting from the pandemic.”

”People can make savings by switching suppliers. The Government’s proposals to improve the switching process should help more people get a fair deal on their bills.”

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