Big Six to face probe over rising energy bills and profits and could even be broken up by ministers

  • Ofgem and Office for Fair Trading making announcement Thursday
  • Industry braced for 18-month competition probe over profits
  • Energy Secretary has asked Ofgem to look at breaking up Big Six

By Peter Campbell, City Correspondent

Britain's Big Six energy firms are facing a competition inquiry into whether they ramped up prices to boost profits.

An announcement by energy regulator Ofgem and the Office of Fair Trading is expected on Thursday, with the industry braced for an 18-month probe.

Regulators have spent the last three months considering power firms’ profits, market shares and relationships with customers.

While some firms, such as E.ON have welcomed a probe, insisting they have nothing to hide, British Gas has insisted there is no need for one as England has 'one of the most competitive energy markets in the world'

While some firms, such as E.ON have welcomed a probe, insisting they have nothing to hide, British Gas has insisted there is no need for one as England has 'one of the most competitive energy markets in the world'

They are expected to opt for the toughest possible measure and refer the entire industry to the Competition Commission.

A full-blown investigation into the Big Six power firms – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, SSE, Npower and ScottishPower – would then follow and could last more than a year.

‘The regulator is being  put under a lot of political pressure at the moment,’ said one industry source.

‘This would lead you to expect that there will be a lot of pressure “to do something”.’

 

The source added a full Competition Commission probe ‘would be a reasonable assumption’.

Public trust in energy firms has fallen to a record low in recent months. According to consumer group Which? only one in six people have confidence in their supplier to act fairly.

David Cameron announced the review in October, in order to ‘get to the bottom of whether this market can be made more competitive’.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat  Energy Secretary Ed Davey wrote to Ofgem last month asking them to consider breaking up the big energy firms

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey wrote to Ofgem last month asking them to consider breaking up the big energy firms

Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey wrote to Ofgem last month, advising the regulator to ‘think radically’ and consider breaking up power firms if necessary.

He said: ‘I want you to feel that you can recommend any one of a range of things, ranging from no action to a full market investigation reference.’

Some of the firms have welcomed calls for a full probe, saying they have nothing to hide.

German-owned energy firm E.ON said an inquiry was needed.

But British Gas, the country’s largest power provider, has insisted that the UK has ‘one of the most competitive energy markets in the world, with gas and electricity prices among the lowest in western Europe’.

The comments below have not been moderated.

More Rhetoric,.......... More Positive action is needed NOT More Multi-Million Pounds of Taxpayers money to be thrown down the drain used for useless stand still Inquiries

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Hopefully,when Putin loses his rag and turns off the gas,they will start using the 200 year supply we're sitting on in the form of coal,in this country.

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Yes I am sure all will be sorted out.... NOT SO... one more big scam lining many pockets.

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In the old days, at least when most of them were making huge profits, a fair chunk of it came back to the public in tax to offset our tax bills, but with the tax avoidance business culture it's a lose-lose for us now. My own local water co takes 1/2 its turnover out of this country with no tax.

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Nothing is going to happen. The big 6 are too powerful and your government has no backbone. In France, the French would have rioted. You British moan and as always, you do nothing.

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100% correct.

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Conveniently after the colder months coming to an end.

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Hooray! At last a ray of light,or is it just hype because of elections? I will believe this if it happens and would guess"that there will not be enough debating time in the commons until after the election!" on this particular subject! These "six" having been "running a closed shop" ever since "privitisation" you know it,they know it!

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START WITH BRITISH GAS.

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All spin its never going to happen they lie.

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18 month probe, what are they flying to Mars... Why should it take so long. Nothing will happen, it's all just the usual...let's show the masses we are on their side...not.

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