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Huhne in vow on energy price hikes

Energy companies will never again be able to impose "outrageous" price hikes on consumers, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has said.

Mr Huhne vowed to step in to ensure firms provided up-to-date tariffs for energy users if the regulator Ofgem failed to make them do so.

Speaking ahead of his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool, he said: "We need to put consumers absolutely at the forefront of what we do on energy policy. So first of all, I want to make sure that the energy companies never again raise prices without telling consumers.

"Sometimes they've raised prices and they've gone 65 days in a winter without actually telling householders that they're putting up their gas and electricity bills. That's outrageous - householders need to be able to make adjustments."

Ofgem is preparing to consult over moves to change rules which allow price changes to be notified to customers up to 65 days after they have been imposed.

"At the moment the regulator has the powers to (make sure firms) tell consumers - if it doesn't, I will consult on using my own powers to step in and make sure that the energy companies do this," Mr Huhne said.

"We also need to provide consumers with more information so if they've got an energy supplier who's frankly charging a little more than they ought to compared with other ones in the market, then it makes it easier to switch, because they can actually see on the bill, I hope, the other deals that might be on offer."

He spoke as the Liberal Democrat leadership battled to quell activists' discontent over the power-sharing deal with the Tories at the party's conference.

Party leader Nick Clegg pleaded with rank-and-file members to "stick with" him on Monday after he suffered a major rebellion over key coalition school reforms just hours before his keynote speech.

But one angry MP accused him of failing to offer the necessary reassurance to supporters amid slumping poll ratings and said he missed his chance "by a mile" to speak to the concerns of Lib Dem voters across the country. Mike Hancock renewed his criticism after sending an open letter to Mr Clegg warning against the party being taken over by a "dictatorship" of ministers and abandoning its commitment to the welfare state.


From Belfast Telegraph