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U.K. Labour Party Would Force Energy Suppliers to Cut Prices

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Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s opposition Labour Party said it would force gas and electricity companies to cut bills for consumers when wholesale prices drop as it prepared to debate in Parliament measures to overhaul the energy market.

Labour said it would abolish Ofgem, the regulator, and create a more powerful body to implement the pricing policy. It said it would force energy suppliers to put people over age 75 on the cheapest tariff and force generators to pool energy so that every retailer has access to it.

Labour would “break the dominance of the energy giants, protect vulnerable customers from being ripped off and create a tough new energy regulator with the power to force energy companies to pass on savings to consumers,” Caroline Flint, the party’s main energy spokeswoman in Parliament, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Labour is seeking to capitalize on a policy reversal by Prime Minister David Cameron last week, when he backed away from a pledge to force gas and electricity suppliers to charge customers the lowest possible prices. Labour will use a House of Commons debate today to push for measures to help consumers, who it says have seen energy bills increase by 200 pounds ($320) a year since Cameron became prime minister in 2010.

The prime minister’s original announcement Oct. 17 was an attempt to respond to public anger after energy providers including Centrica Plc and RWE Npower Plc announced price increases to take effect as winter approaches.

A day later, Cameron’s spokeswoman, Vickie Sheriff, told reporters the planned legislation might include imposing a duty on companies to inform customers of lower tariffs. Energy Minister John Hayes told lawmakers only that the legislation would “help energy customers get the best deal.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gonzalo Vina in London at gvina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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