At last… hints of a fight back. The prevailing narrative of the energy industry story has been based on a rather simplistic plotline – rather one-dimensional and one directional: the energy companies do what they want and we, the customer, have no choice but to follow.
However, it seems a bigger picture might now be emerging, and this time, the government is prepared to do something about it. The London offices of massive companies such as BP, Shell and Platts (who report oil prices) were all raided this month. Investigators seem worried that, rather like the Libor scandal in the financial industry, these companies might be meeting to fix oil prices, thereby maintaining an artificial upward pressure on prices, keeping them artificially high for business energy consumers.
Such price fixing would no doubt trickle down to higher prices for business energy consumers, already struggling with bills and their impact on the bottom line. So at last, it seems, there is a chink of light, and some action might be taken at a high level to combat the high energy prices for UK businesses
. This is especially important as it follows so soon after other allegations of petrol price fixing, and suggestions of manipulations, and huge fluctuations, in the wholesale gas market only last autumn.
The Office of Fair Trading has been fairly impotent in the past but it seems now, finally, the issue is being taken seriously. The situation is certainly serious enough to have drawn comment from the Prime Minister. Visiting New York, David Cameron described the situation as “very, very serious” and went on to threaten “major consequences”, which might include court charges if these companies are found culpable. "It's totally unacceptable for firms to fix prices and force consumers to pay more,” the Prime Minister continued. “That's why we are looking at how to extend this criminal offence to the energy sector to make sure that those who manipulate benchmark prices feel the full force of the law."
As customer, whether as businesses or even domestic consumers, it can be frustrating to feel unable to push back against these huge companies. Utility Helpline have been part of this push, working for our customers by scouring the market for the best possible business energy tariffs, to at least make things as painless as possible. And now, it seems we are all to receive additional help from some very high places.