Energy, water and telecoms regulators agree action plan in areas where consumers need most support

The UK’s energy, water and telecoms regulators have agreed a new action plan to ensure consumers are being treated fairly amid the cost of living crisis.

With wholesale energy prices and other input costs beginning to come down, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to make sure consumers benefit from these reduced costs. During the current period of high inflation and interest rates, this also includes ensuring higher interest rates are passed on to savers.

A meeting at number 11 Downing Street included the chief executives of Ofgem, Ofwat and Ofcom, along with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA is expected to report by the end of July on how the savings market is allowing savers to benefit from higher interest rates. Banks and building societies will be asked to explain the pace and extent of their pass through of interest rates, and how they are proactively supporting savers to switch to high interest rate products.

On Monday, the CMA will publish its review of the road fuel market. It will provide updates on the grocery sector in July, and housebuilding and rented accommodation in August, and also plans to launch work in at least two new areas.

Ofgem will take steps to ensure that all gas and electricity providers are passing falling prices onto consumers and keep the price cap formula under review so that it mirrors the costs facing suppliers.

Ofwat agreed to crack down on water companies that are not going far enough to support customers to pay their bills, access help and repay debts.

And Ofcom will push suppliers that have yet to introduce social tariffs (discount deals for vulnerable customers) to offer them in the broadband and mobile markets, as well as waive fees for customers who want to switch providers to access a social tariff.

The FCA, Ofcom, Ofwat and Ofgem will also publish a joint statement setting out shared expectations on treatment of customers in financial difficulties.

A follow-up meeting with the chancellor is due to be held later in the summer.

Severn Trent unveils takeover approach from Borealis-led group

UK water and waste water treatment firm Severn Trent Plc (LON:SVT) today announced it had been approached with a takeover proposal by a group that includes Canada’s Borealis Infrastructure Management Inc, thus confirming recent press speculation.

Severn Trent said in a statement that Borealis, the Kuwait Investment Office and the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd are considering making an offer to buy the company. The water utility stressed there was no certainty that the consortium would make a firm bid as the approach is at a very early stage.

Earlier, Magazine Financial News quoted two sources as saying that Borealis and the Kuwait Investment Office could propose to pay between £22.50 ($34.44/€26.49) and £23.00 per share, or around £5.3bn in total.

According to Liberum analysts cited by Reuters, it would be risky for the suitors to pay such premium in year three of the five-year regulatory cycle for one of the three remaining public UK water firms.