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New inquiry: ESNZ Committee to examine fairness of customer energy bills

24 November 2023

MPs are to investigate the process of billing customers for their gas and electricity in an inquiry looking at whether the rules on charging for energy are fair for all.

The Energy Security and Net Zero Committee inquiry will examine further the case for the standing charge after the Committee concluded in September that the current structure was ‘unfair and regressive’.

After the Committee’s inquiry on preparing for winter heard of widespread support from across the industry for a social tariff, the inquiry will also look at how introducing a different price for those on the lowest incomes might help to improve the fairness of bills.

The new inquiry will additionally look at the rules for forcibly switching people to pre-payment meters and whether such tariffs are necessary to deter fraud and theft. Last month the Committee wrote to Scottish Power after the energy company obtained more than a hundred warrants to forcibly install prepayment meters in the homes of customers.

The use of direct debit and how the cost of energy varies depending on geography will also be examined.

Chair comment

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Chair of the ESNZ Committee, said: “Over the last few months, the Committee has heard a range of concerns about the potentially unfair nature of the way households are billed for their gas and electricity.  Evidence that the daily standing charge  ̶  imposed on all bill payers regardless of energy use  ̶  has a disproportionate impact on the poorest in society is a case in point. Our inquiry will be looking at the anatomy of customers’ energy bills and whether there is fairer way for the energy firms to recoup the cost of the energy and service they provide.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting submissions by February 2nd based on the following questions:

  1. What are the justifications for allowing or removing standing charges from energy bills?
  2. Should companies be allowed to provide cheaper bills to those who choose to pay by direct debit?
  3. Are pre-payment tariffs necessary to deter fraud and theft and, if so, are the rules in forcibly switching people to pre-payment properly policed?
  4. Should there be greater use of discounts on energy for those who live closer to energy infrastructure?
  5. Is it right to expect those in more remote areas of the country to pay higher amounts in standing charges?
  6. How should a social tariff be implemented to address inequalities in billing? 

Further information

Image credit: Tyler Allicock/UK Parliament