Jeremy Hunt says regulators to act ‘urgently’ in bid to ‘ease the cost of living burden on consumers’

28 June 2023, 18:34 | Updated: 28 June 2023, 18:46

The Chancellor of the Exchequer met with regulators on Wednesday.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer met with regulators on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

The Chancellor met with regulators on Wednesday to draw up agreements on how they can better help consumers tackle the cost of living crisis.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt met with regulators for energy, water and communications sectors on Wednesday morning to lay down plans on how to ease the cost of living for consumers.

Mr Hunt said after the meeting that he had secured agreements from the watchdogs, who will be acting "urgently", but also added that he will keep a “watchful eye” on their behaviour.

He said in a statement: "I am pleased we've secured agreement with the regulators to act urgently in areas where consumers need most support to ensure they are treated fairly.

"We are working hard to halve inflation this year and return to the 2% target.

"Businesses must play their part too and I will keep a watchful eye on the progress they make."

Mr Hunt also sought to address whether there is a profiteering problem among regulators at the Wednesday meeting after a number of supermarket executives rejected claims they had been profiteering through the cost of living crisis on Tuesday.

Executives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda were among the supermarkets to reject the claims, as they insisted their profits fell last year.

It comes after the Bank of England suggested that some businesses are failing to pass on lower costs to consumers following the recent fall in wholesale energy prices.

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Jeremy Hunt said the regulators will act "urgently".
Jeremy Hunt said the regulators will act "urgently". Picture: Alamy

Following Wednesday’s meeting with the Chancellor, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have agreed to deliver better deals for savers by driving competition.

The CMA has agreed to deliver a better deal for motorists by publishing their review of the road fuel market, help shoppers pay fairer prices and actively scrutinise markets where cost-of-living pressures are growing and launch work to investigate them.

Ofcom has said it will push suppliers who have yet to introduce discount deals for vulnerable customers to do so and waive fees for any customers who want to switch providers to access these deals.

Ofgem have agreed to ensure all suppliers are passing falling prices onto consumers, keep the price cap formula under review to ensure that it mirrors the costs facing suppliers.

A new cap introduced from Ofgem on July 1 is also set to reduce the typical annual household energy bill by £426.

The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has also agreed to crack down on water companies not going far enough to support customers to pay their bills, access help and repay debts.

It comes after the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission said a future where water bills could rise by a much as 40% in the next few years are “probably not unrealistic”, speaking to The Times.

The watchdogs Mr Hunt met with are expected to provide updates as they progress and meet with the Treasury again later in the summer.

Rishi Sunak addressed the plans on Wednesday.
Rishi Sunak addressed the plans on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy

Rishi Sunak said addressing the meeting that regulators will soon make an announcement on plans "to ease the burden on consumers".

At Prime Minister's Questions he said: "The Chancellor met with all the economic regulators this morning and they will be making an announcement later about their plans to ensure fairness of pricing and supply chains to ease the burden on consumers."

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that food prices in May were at 18.4%, higher than the year previous, and from the Consumer Price Index which showed that inflation had remained at 8.7%.