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Competition


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From: The Socialist issue 786, 30 October 2013: Striking back!

Search site for keywords: Energy - Government - Labour - Gas - Water - Electricity - Ed Miliband - Competition

Stop rip-off energy prices

Nationalise the Big Six!

Ronnie Job

I hate SSE because of a boiler not installed when promised, leaving my family, including two young children, without hot water for four weeks this summer.

I was hardly surprised when SSE became the first of the 'Big 6' energy suppliers to increase prices this winter.

Given the new prices (up around 8.2%), despite the eventual installation of the new boiler, we may have to do without hot water this winter too!

The responses to Ed Miliband's promise that the next Labour government would freeze gas and electricity prices for 20 months were laughable accusations of 'Marxism' from Prime Minister David Cameron, and threats of shortages by the energy suppliers.

Apparently it is impossible to fix prices for families, many of whom will face the choice to 'heat or eat' this winter. But it is possible to fix profits for multinational energy suppliers; those contracted to build the new nuclear power station will be guaranteed generous sale prices for their electricity for 35 years!

Welcome as a freeze would be, to many hard up families, it won't bring any relief this winter and energy companies will be able to make greater price increases before the election.

Cameron suggested that customers could switch provider to get a better deal. But when one provider raises prices, the others quickly follow; British Gas, Npower and Scottish Power have already followed SSE's example in raising prices.

The number of tariffs is deliberately confusing; SSE was fined 10.5 million earlier this year for tricking customers into paying more than necessary by making them think they were on the cheapest tariff.

Scottish Power was fined 8.5 million this month, for misleading doorstep and telephone sales, in the very same week they put up their prices by an average of nearly 9%.

When energy was privatised it was claimed customers would get a better deal. But each year, price rises are several times inflation, matched only by executives' bonuses and shareholders' dividends.

The Tories, Liberals and Labour, all see 'fairer' competition and better regulation as the solution. But every year there is a suspicion that suppliers have acted like a cartel to fix prices and every time, an investigation by the toothless regulator, Ofgem, clears them of collusion.

Regulation and competition has failed to protect customers under every government since privatisation, including the last Labour government, who's energy secretary was? That's right, Ed Miliband!

At the end of the day, you can't control what you don't own and the only way to relieve working class families of the pressure of deciding to either heat their homes or feed themselves, is to take the energy companies into common ownership, under democratic workers' control, as part of a socialist plan of energy production and the wider economy.

Domestic dual energy prices average annual bill

Oct 2012 1,250

Oct 2013 1,320

Wholesale gas prices average annual bill

Oct 2012 600

Oct 2013 610

'Big Six' profit margin per household

Oct 2012 45

Oct 2013 95

Source: Ofgem

The 'Big Six' collectively made profits of 3.7 billion in 2012






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