Energy firms blasted as poorer customers miss out on price cuts:

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Tens of thousands of pensioners and low-income households who use only small amounts of gas and electricity have seen their energy bills rise over the past five months, despite advertised price cuts, an investigation by Times Money has found.

The revelation has fuelled calls for a reform of the way in which consumers are charged for energy.

The UK’s biggest utility companies finally bowed to huge pressure from consumer groups by announcing small cuts in gas bills earlier this year, after wholesale prices had plummeted by 60 per cent in the previous 18 months.

However, research conducted by uSwitch, the price comparison website, for Times Money found that the price cuts announced by energy companies were reducing bills for high users considerably more than for those who conserve energy or cannot afford to use more than the minimum. And low-use customers of one company, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), actually saw their bills rise by 1.5 per cent, or £10 annually, despite the supplier advertising that it had cut the cost of gas by 4 per cent.

A low-use customer is defined as someone on a dual-fuel tariff who uses less than 10,000kWh of gas and 1,650kWh of electricity a year. Consumer groups said that low-use customers are typically pensioners, single people and low-income families.

Source: Times Online

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21th June 2010