Customers share blame for giant UK fuel bills: minister

17th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Consumers have to shoulder some of the blame for high energy bills because they cannot be bothered to get themselves a better deal, Britain's energy secretary said Saturday.

Chris Huhne told The Times newspaper that families could save up to £300 ($475, 345 euros) if they shopped around for cheaper gas and electricity bargains.

"They do not bother," he said.

"They frankly spend less time shopping around for a bill that's on average more than £1,000 a year than they would shop around for a £25 toaster.

"If they got that in perspective and said, 'OK, we are going to spend a little bit of time shopping around' (they) could save very substantial amounts of money."

The average dual fuel bill is now more than £1,200, The Times reported.

Huhne said 85 percent of households did not shop around, and challenged customers not to "just sit back and take it".

He also accused the six major energy suppliers, who hold 99 percent of the market, of abusing their dominance.

Huhne has asked the regulator Ofgem to pursue a complaint that they are squeezing out smaller suppliers, The Times said.

Huhne said soaring energy bills could largely be blamed on a 27 percent rise in world gas prices last year.

"I'm absolutely in favour of people making lots of money in a fair and competitive market," he said.

"I'm absolutely against people making money by abusing a dominant position."

EDF became the last of the big six to raise their prices, with gas going up 15.4 percent and electricity 4.5 percent.

Some ministers fear that energy prices could become a dominant issue over the looming winter.

© 2011 AFP

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