Justify these rising costs
C USTOMERS with one energy firm have seen their bills increase by a whopping 20 per cent since the Coalition Government came to power. It is a period which has been dominated by eye-catching figures revealing the extent of the deficit and the scale of cuts that have been imposed on the public sector. But there is no getting away from the fact that the figure most likely to impact on families, particularly as we head into winter, is the cost of the bill to heat their homes. It has become the hottest of hot topics and, in some households, people have to choose whether to spend money on fuel or food. The main energy suppliers lined up earlier this year to announce, one after another, that the amount they charge for gas and electricity will be rising again. And the justification has always been that prices have to rise to reflect the wholesale costs to the suppliers.
B ut now it has emerged that firms may have manipulated the wholesale gas market to their advantage. The allegation is that the market was rigged in a similar way to the fixing of Libor, the inter-bank lending rate – just one of the scandals to engulf the banking sector this year. The claims come from a whistleblower working in the markets who claims price fixing is widespread. The Financial Services Authority and Ofgem are investigating the claims. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Ed Davey has promised tough action if the allegations prove to be true. All of the UK's big six energy suppliers have denied any involvement. But hard-pressed families, who yesterday also got the bad news that inflation is on the increase as a result of – among other things – rising food prices, will be anxious to discover the outcome of the inquiry. If they must, year after year, pay more for energy bills then they need to know it's justified.
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