Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis warned about “worrying issues” over energy companies increasing customers’ direct debits disproportionately to April’s 54 per cent increase to Ofgem’s price cap, even for those in credit.
He told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: “There is no reason to double someone’s direct debit when they’re in credit and the price cap is going up 54 per cent.
“That’s not mathematically sound and it’s a breach of licence conditions. I have been very concerned that a number of companies are doing it to improve their cash flow situation at the expense of their customers and I would like to see the regulator crack down on that.”
He added: “It’s important to remember that there is no competition in the market any more. This is not a market … no-one can switch.
“The amount of playing fast and loose that seems to be going on is huge right now. We need to crack down and we need to be much tougher with firms that do this.”
“Companies are seeing this price change as an opportunity to crystallise a change in payments.
“It’s right across the board with all companies. Consumers have to be wary.
Mr Lewis said the Government’s current package of measures to help those on the lowest incomes cope with bill increases is “not enough”, adding that it “needs to give them more money.”
Gillian Cooper, from Citizens Advice, told the committee that the Government’s energy bill support measures were “insufficient for the scale of the crisis we’re facing”, adding: “We have to recognise that there are millions of households simply unable to cope with the increases we’re going to see this year.