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NET DISCRIMINATES AGAINST LOW INCOME GROUP, ACCUSES CONSUMER BODY

News, 01 February 2000

UTILITIES ARE ALLEGEDLY discriminating against lower income groups by offering discounted gas prices over the internet. The first net-only gas company, Energy Online, was launched in December by Amerada, while PowerGen’s site now offers a £30 cashback to consumers signing-up for its dual fuel supply service. Virgin is also thought to be poised to jump the utility bandwagon with Virgin Home Services, due to launch later this year.

Says the Gas Consumers’ Council: 'We agree that it is unfair. We will look into it and speak to [regulator] Ofgem. We need to focus on low income-consumers as well.' Ofgem takes the view that if utilities’ services and tariffs are marketed on the web, they must supply all who ask, even if their requests are not submitted online. The spokesman added the rider that there is no restriction per se on charging less for internet-marketed services. '