UK energy regulator to make suppliers pay for switching woes

FILE PHOTO: The sun rises behind electricity pylons near Chester, northern England October 24, 2011. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British energy companies will from May 1 be forced to pay automatic compensation to customers facing problems when switching supplier, regulator Ofgem said on Wednesday.

Britain has a cap on the most widely used energy bills but Ofgem wants to encourage people to look at switching supplier to see if even more money can be saved.

“We are introducing these new standards to give customers further peace of mind, and to challenge suppliers to get it right first time,” said Mary Starks, executive director for Consumers and Markets at Ofgem.

Customers will receive 30 pounds ($39) for issues such as being switched by mistake, if the switch takes longer than 15 working days or if their final bill doesn’t arrive within six weeks.

Switching to smaller independent suppliers has cut the market share of Britain’s big six energy suppliers to around 70% from near total market dominance 10 years ago.

Britain's big suppliers are Centrica's CNA.L British Gas, new entrant Ovo Energy that took over SSE's SSE.L retail arm, Iberdrola's IBE.MC Scottish Power, Innogy's npower, E.ON EONGn.DE and EDF Energy EDF.PA.

Reporting By Susanna Twidale; Editing by Kirsten Donovan