Criminal offence to fix energy prices under new proposals

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Under new government proposals it could soon be a criminal offence, punishable with up to two years in prison, to fix wholesale gas and electricity prices.

Current rules mean that individuals can only be investigated and fined for rigging energy prices, however, Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, has stated he wants this to be changed.

Energy prices have been a political issue since last year when Labour lead Ed Miliband vowed to halt energy price rises for 20 months if he were to win the next general election.

Since then there have been investigations in to the big six energy suppliers, and these new proposals arrive at a time where inquiries are still being conducted. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently launched an 18-month investigation into concerns that competition in the energy market is not working effectively.

Industry regulator Ofgem has expressed that it wants to understand why lower wholesale prices aren't translating into lower energy bills for customers.

These planned changes would give more control to energy regulators, allowing them to to prosecute those individuals suspected to be rigging prices. Using insider information to purchase or sell energy prices on the wholesale market would also become a criminal offence under Mr Davey's proposed changes.

He said: "Manipulating the energy market is absolutely unacceptable, and these proposals provide a much stronger deterrent - more in line with the approach taken in the financial markets."

If the proposals receive approval from parliament, they could come into effect as soon as spring next year (2015).

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