Ruling Roost

LONDON, June 28, 2007 (AFP) – Ten years after British energy markets were liberalised the customer is king and can put pressure on prices with a click of a computer mouse to change provider. Since Britain first prised open its gas and electricity markets to private households in 1998-1999, the market has settled down and prices are quite low, but at the expense of close supervision by market regulators.

British regulators encourage consumers to change supplier to maintain competitive pressure.

Before the market was opened up, British Gas enjoyed a monopoly in the gas sector, while 14, mainly American, electricity companies had a monopoly in each of the country’s 14 regions.

The market opening brought another 11 competitors to the market, notably banks and supermarkets, and at the end of 1999 26 companies were distributing gas and electricity throughout Britain.

Prices dropped, but so did the level of service.

Salesman working on commission practised foot in the door methods, offering compact discs and airline tickets in exchange for signing on the dotted line.

In response to the disorder the government created in 2000 a two-headed policing authority, the regula