Ofgem has fined two energy suppliers and consultant for anti-competitive behaviour.
The regulator found that between January and September 2016 Economy Energy and E (Gas and Electricity) had an anti-competitive agreement preventing the two suppliers actively targeting one another’s customers through face-to-face sales. To facilitate this agreement, the suppliers shared commercially sensitive information in the form of customer meter point details.
Dyball Associates aided the arrangement by designing, implementing and maintaining software systems that allowed customer meter point details to be shared, and recruitment of each other’s customers to be blocked.
The regulator fined E (Gas and Electricity) £650,000. Economy Energy’s fine was lower at £200,000 becaus the company is already in administration. It Ofgem fined Dyball Associates £20,000 for acting as a facilitator. Ofgem did not accept the suppliers’ argument that they were a combined family enterprise.
Anthony Pygram, director of conduct and enforcement at Ofgem, said: “Anti-competitive agreements are a serious breach of competition law and could cause widespread detriment and harm to consumers, especially those in vulnerable situations.
“E and Economy Energy agreed not to target each other’s customers with the assistance of Dyball Associates, leaving some customers potentially worse off by being unable to access deals from the other supplier.
“Customers should have an opportunity to switch to other suppliers and should not be prevented from doing so by anti-competitive agreements, and suppliers should all have an equal opportunity and compete on a level playing field with rivals.”
The majority of the customers with both suppliers at the time were pre-payment meter customers, who are less likely to switch than those on standard meters and so more likely to be on a more expensive deal, said Ofgem.