§ Mr. Gregory
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is Her Majesty's Government's response to the report by the Director General of Fair Trading on the resale of electricity by landlords; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Howard
The Government expect to deal with this subject not by making overcharging a separate criminal offence but as part of the proposed new legislation on misleading price indications announced in my predecessor's statement of 4 March to the House. When the necessary powers become available under that legislation, we expect to introduce an order requiring those who resell electricity to give itemised bills which include a statement showing the number of units charged for, the rates applied and the statutory maximum rate. The general provisions of that legislation, under which it would be a criminal offence to give a misleading price indication or to fail to comply with an order, would then apply to those bills and the information given in them. The present civil remedy would also continue to be available.
The electricity supply industry, with the agreement of the Government, has decided not to abolish the daily availability charge as recommended in the report but, instead, to rationalise it throughout the United Kingdom on the basis that the maximum any tenant pays through the daily availability charge will be no more than he would pay through the domestic standing charge if he were a standard direct credit customer of his electricity board. The industry has satisfied itself that this will be a fair arrangement for both tenants and landlords and expects to introduce this change in the next general round of tariff changes, probably in the spring of 1986. The arrangements for itemised bills will also embrace the daily availability charge.
I understand that many electricity boards are discussing with their area electricity consultative councils what steps should be taken with regard to the report's recommendation that there should be increased publicity for maximum resale prices. In some areas, discussions have already taken place and in others the subject will be included as part of the normal discussions regarding the next general round of tariff changes. The Government recognise that additional publicity will be necessary for the new powers which I have outlined today at the time they become available and will consider the form this should take in due course. The industry has however already informed the Government of its willingness to play its part by incorporating details of the new arrangements in its own leaflets, showroom notices and other advertisements about the maximum resale price of electricity.