The head of Britain’s biggest energy supplier has warned the prime minister against making his company a scapegoat for the perceived failures of business, though he conceded that economic inequality had brought “capitalism into disrepute with voters”. Iain Conn, chief executive of Centrica, owner of British Gas, said Theresa May was right to focus on the problems of “people left behind by globalisation”. But he said the “big six” energy companies were the wrong target for a threatened clampdown on market failures. Last week Mrs May told the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that “where markets are dysfunctional” she was prepared to intervene, citing as an example the “two-thirds of energy customers stuck on the most expensive tariffs”. This fuelled speculation the prime minister is considering energy price caps of the kind once proposed by Ed Miliband, former Labour leader, as part of her pledge to put government “at the service of ordinary working-class people”. The Competition and Markets Authority last June proposed a limited cap on prepayment meters – typically used by the poorest and most vulnerable consumers – after a two-year investigation into alleged overcharging. But the regulator ultimately stopped short of market-wide price controls.
FT 10th Oct 2016 read more »