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Labour Would Allow U.K. Regulator to Revoke Utilities’ Licenses

U.K. utilities would face having their licenses revoked if they break the rules under changes the Labour Party promises to introduce if elected next year.

A new energy regulator would have the power to withdraw licenses if companies repeatedly breach their conditions and harm the interests of consumers, Caroline Flint, the shadow energy and climate change secretary, said today. Suppliers also would be required to produce an annual “scorecard” reporting on performance and areas of concern.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said in September that he would break up the “Big Six” utilities, cap consumer bills until 2017 and create a new, tougher regulator. Currently the regulator has the power to fine companies that violate the terms of their license.

“Too often energy companies seem to view the regulator’s fines as a cost of doing business –- not as a warning to get their act together,” Flint said in an e-mailed statement. “Of course consumers must be compensated –- but if energy companies persist in mistreating their customers they must know their license could be on the line.”

Today’s remarks suggest the energy market may be subject to a fresh round of rules and restructuring just as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Electricity Market Reform is being rolled out. The program is designed to lure 110 billion pounds ($183 billion) of investment to replace aging generators and networks and build clean energy plants.

“On David Cameron’s watch, energy bills in Britain have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other country in the developed world,” Flint said.

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