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Markets watchdog blockaded over energy ‘whitewash’

PROTESTERS blocked the entrance to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) yesterday, accusing the watchdog of whitewashing energy companies’ overcharging of customers to the tune of £1.7 billion.

The CMA called its probe “the most comprehensive investigation into the energy market since privatisation” but initial findings on Britain’s Big Six energy companies “ripping off” customers were not included in the final document.

Switched On London activists scaled the walls of the CMA HQ yesterday to unfurl a banner reading: “CMA <3 Big Six. Public energy now.”

Switched On member Emma Hughes branded the “so-called investigation … a farce.”

An initial report in March estimated that lack of competition in Big Six energy prices cost customers an average £1.7bn a year between 2012 and 2015.

And the “provisional decision on remedies” said the swindle was getting worse each year, with consumers overcharged by £2.5bn in 2015.

“People need a genuine alternative to these rip-off merchants,” said Ms Hughes.

“By setting up local public energy companies that put affordable bills before profit, the government can ensure people are able to heat their homes.

“This is a basic need, not a luxury.”

She accused the CMA of “colluding” with the Big Six after the damning stats disappeared from its Modernising the Energy Market report released yesterday.

The authority did propose measures to “revitalise competition” in the sector, including government support for price comparison websites and to give widely derided watchdog Ofgem further powers.

Investigation chair Roger Witcomb said: “With far too many customers paying hundreds of pounds more than they need to, they will be alerted to the better value deals that are out there and it will be easier for them to identify a good deal and switch to it.

“Those that can help with this process, like price comparison websites, will be given the ability to play a more active role.

“In other markets, they’ve played a big part in driving down prices, increasing switching and enabling suppliers of all sizes to reach customers and — freed up — they can do the same here.

“We believe our measures alongside other future developments will mean energy customers see real improvements over the years ahead.”

The CMA refused to comment on yesterday’s protest.


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