BRITAIN’S poorest families will get automatic help to cut their energy bills under plans to be unveiled this week.
Gas and electricity firms will be forced to put all vulnerable customers on to special tariffs to protect them from sudden price rises.
Ministers want to change the law to allow them to share information with suppliers to help identify households who may struggle to pay their bills.
This would identify at least five million people receiving state benefits that show they might be at risk of fuel poverty.
Energy giants would then be under obligation to move them on to the “safeguard tariff”, without the need of a means test.
The tariff, brought in by energy watchdog Ofgem last April, gives special protections for pensioners more likely to struggle with bills and who are less inclined to switch to better deals.
It caps bills at £1,031 a year for those who use pre-payment meters or who receive the warm home discount.
Last year energy suppliers hit customers with a string of price rises, resulting in the government announcing a price cap – the final details of which are to be announced.
Customers of the Big Six energy suppliers are overpaying by up to a staggering £1.4billion a year.
Under the law change, public authorities and energy suppliers would be able to share information under strictly controlled conditions to identify customers who need protection. This would make it quicker and easier for struggling households to take advantage of the safeguard cap.
Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “The effects of energy price rises are often felt most by those on the lowest incomes, as they are usually on the highest standard variable tariffs.
“These people are at risk of being plunged further into fuel poverty if they are left at the mercy of a broken energy market.
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“Enabling energy suppliers to establish who should be on Ofgem’s safeguard tariff cap will help those vulnerable customers.”
Ofgem boss Dermot Nolan said: “More consumers in vulnerable circumstances are on poor value tariffs because they are less likely to switch.
“The proposed amendments to legislation would help us to extend price protection to those who need it most.
“We are committed to protecting all consumers, particularly the vulnerable, from paying too much for their energy, while making it easier for those who switch to get a better deal.”
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