Ofgem, the energy regulator, came under fire on Thursday night after admitting it had 10 outstanding investigations against the major power companies, with some dating back over two and a half years.
Frustration was stoked by claims that a new initiative by Ofgem to force the Big Six to introduce simplified billing systems, announced on Thursday, would not work and could even make matters worse.
The update on the number of investigations under way was revealed as Ofgem outlined a new “strategic vision” for enforcing a tougher regulatory regime. The watchdog said its crackdown was designed to “achieve a culture where businesses put energy consumers first and act in line with their obligations”.
It boasted that over the last three years it had completed 14 full-scale investigations, collected more than £35m in penalties and obtained around £6m in redress for consumers.
But the regulator, heavily criticised in the past for not being tough enough, also admitted it had 10 outstanding investigations – including one for potential blocking of customer transfers against British Gas that opened in January 2012. Another was launched in 2010 against Scottish Power over its telesales conduct.
The regulator blamed the delays on a lack of cooperation and said it had introduced a new settlement procedure designed to speed up investigations. The latest proposals include establishing a panel to monitor punishments levied on errant energy firms.