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Households could be inundated with unsolicited sales pitches from energy providers after the industry watchdog proposed forcing companies to open up their databases to rival suppliers.
The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) announced a shake-up of the energy industry to drive down prices in a sector it says is collectively overcharging Britain s households by 1.7bn a year.
It proposed a price cap to stop Big Six suppliers, such as British Gas, from charging excessive amounts to the four million households on pre-payment meters. It also wants to force them to share information on those customers who have been on expensive default standard variable tariffs for three years or more, so that rivals can attempt to lure them away with lower prices.
Millions of households could have gas and electricity prices cut
Customers on standard variable tariffs, which account for 70 per cent of UK households, could save an average of 300 a year by switching to an alternative supplier. This is because after signing up to a relatively cheap fixed-term deal of one to three years when they first signed to the supplier, they have since been moved on to a higher-rate default standard-rate tariff.
But despite the good intention of the database proposal, financial advisers are concerned that it could mean households are bombarded with offers from rival energy suppliers that could leave them feeling even more confused.
There s almost a feeling that if you haven t switched to a new provider within three years you ll be punished with spam, said Martin Lewis, founder of the MoneySavingExpert.com price comparison website.
I m getting tweets from all over the place from people who are worried about this.
The risk is that if everybody shouts at them, people will just put their fingers in their ears, he said.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at the uSwitch.com comparison site, said: Proposals to share data between providers are well intentioned but could lead to consumers being inundated with unsolicited marketing material.
This risks further confusion among customers, particularly the most vulnerable, and could also raise data privacy issues.
UK news in pictures
1/30 10 March 2016
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales with Vladimir Jurowski after awarding him Doctor of Music as he attends the Royal College of Music s music awards in London
2/30 9 March 2016
Students march past Oriel College at Oxford University, as they call for the removal of a statue mounted on the college building of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. The statue of 19th century politician Cecil Rhodes on the front of Oriel College, Oxford, is the subject of a call by students in the city to be taken down, as it glorifies British colonialism
3/30 8 March 2016
The sunrise over Bingham, Nottinghamshire, as signs of spring will start to show at the end of this week with climbing temperatures across the UK
4/30 7 March 2016
A lorry of dinosaurs is unloaded at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Ashford, Kent, as the final shipment arrives from Germany to be placed in the park as a permanent display featuring 103 anatomically correct replica dinosaurs opening this Easter
5/30 6 March 2016
The Central Street Cookery School in London hosts free baking classes to celebrate Mother s day. Run in collaboration with Stork and hosted by food blogger Jemma Lloyd, the classes teaches budding star bakers how to make a cake for their mum
6/30 5 March 2016
Police and fans clash outside the ground before the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, in London
7/30 4 March 2016
Children play during a photo call with a Spitfire at the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian, ahead of the 80th anniversary of the first Spitfire flight which took place on 5 March 1936.
National Museums Scotland has announced the reopening date for two of the National Museum of Flight s aircraft hangars following their 3.6 million restoration and redevelopment. The Second World War hangars will reopen on Good Friday, 25 March, with displays telling the story of military and civilian aviation history
8/30 3 March 2016
Sir Chris Hoy and Michael Rosen take part in World Book Day at Discover Childrens Story Centre in London
9/30 2 March 2016
A woman walks through colourful smoke bombs, an artwork created by artist Filippo Minelli in Somerset House s courtyard, London, ahead of their new street art exhibition, Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday Utopias of the Street, which opens to the public tomorrow
10/30 2 March 2016
Conservationist Sarah Pinchin, 41, inspects her teams work on Rubens ceiling painting Apotheosis of James 1st during restoration work at Banqueting House in London, England. The Banqueting House is the only remaining part of the Palace of Whitehall, once the largest Palace in Europe but destroyed by fire in 1698.
Visitors can see the magnificent ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. It is currently being renovated and will re-open to the public on 1 April 2016
11/30 1 March 2016
Demonstraters (left to right) Roy Bard, 56, Claire Glasman, 55, Ariane Sacco and (name not given) chant outside the Supreme Court where judges are to consider appeals over the bedroom tax in London. Also known as under occupancy or the spare room subsidy, the bedroom rax deducts 14% from the benefit of a tenant if they have an unused bedroom
12/30 29 February 2016
Television presenter Laura Jackson (centre left) and Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine (centre right) launch Fairtrade Fortnight 2016, which runs from today until 13 March, by hosting a breakfast on the roof of One New Change in London.
The two-week campaign aims to encourage consumers to share a Fairtrade breakfast with family or friends and wake up to the challenges faced by farmers and workers in developing countries who produce the food we eat for breakfast, but struggle to feed themselves
13/30 29 February 2016
Merlin Entertainment of a 30ft leap year message written in the sand by Lousie Forder, 31, who proposed to her partner Robert Green, 27, in line with the February 29 tradition, at the top of the Blackpool Tower, where she delivered him the message
14/30 28 February 2016
The OUWBC in action during The 2016 Cancer Research UK Boat Race fixture between Oxford University Women s Boat Club and Molesey in London
15/30 27 February 2016
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the crowds from Trafalgar Square after a Stop Trident march though central London
16/30 26 February 2016
The Duke of Kent stands after laying a wreath at the memorial plaque to British servicemen killed in the first Gulf War in the crypt of St Paul s Cathedral in London, following a service to mark the 25th anniversary of the conflict
17/30 25 February 2016
Flying Scotsman officially returns to the East Coast Main Line to launch a season celebrating its return to the track. The iconic locomotive is being showcased alongside Virgin Trains own Flying Scotsman , complete with its brand new interior, at King s Cross station before setting off on its five-hour journey to York
18/30 24 February 2016
Busy Londoners look baffled as their routine commute was disrupted by a sea of people dressed in yellow inflatable suits. The charity HEART UK in partnership with Flora ProActiv has designed the stunt to challenge the issue of elevated cholesterol levels
19/30 23 February 2016
Kevin Haynes, the Horticulture Manager on Taylors Bulbs farm, inspects a field of Tamara daffodils on Taylors Bulbs farm, near Holbeach in eastern England, ahead of Mother s Day
20/30 22 February 2016
Britain s Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, visits the British Army s 1st The Queen s Dragoon Guards regiment at Robertson Barracks in Dereham, East of England
21/30 21 February 2016
London Mayor Boris Johnson delivers a statement to the media regarding his position on the forthcoming EU referendum outside his home in London.
Johnson said he would support a vote for Britain to leave the European Union in a blow for Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of a membership referendum in June
22/30 20 February 2016
David Cameron speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London. Mr Cameron has returned to London after securing a deal following two days of talks with European leaders in Brussels regarding Britain s relationship with the EU. He said the deal will give the United Kingdom special status within the EU.
An in/out referendum on EU membership is expected as early as June this year
23/30 19 February 2016
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially opens Scotland s first independent safe deposit box service in Glasgow. Based in the city s south side, Glasgow Vaults has been introduced in response to the major banks withdrawing the service that safeguards people s valuable possessions
24/30 18 February 2016
Snowdrops carpet the ground in the beech wood at Welford Park in Berkshire
25/30 17 February 2016
Rescue teams and a Coastguard helicopter are deployed to the scene of an Avalanche at Creag Meagaidh in Fort William,Scotland. The rescuers had been searching for missing climbers Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27 from Bradford, had been climbing on Ben Nevis over the weekend but were reported missing
26/30 16 February 2016
Visitors enjoy the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society s) Early Spring Fair in London.
Growers from across the UK come together for the show at the RHS Horticultural Halls in Westminster to exhibit their seasonal produce
27/30 15 February 2016
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson during a visit to Stirling Bull Sales in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives are targeting disenchanted Labour and Lib Dem voters as they step up campaigning for the Holyrood election. Leader Ruth Davidson is to send out a personal letter to 600,000 people, many of whom have never voted Conservative before, to ask them for support on 5 May
28/30 14 February 2016
Farmer Peter Laidlaw feeds his sheep at Craigannet Farm on the snow covered hills of the Carron Valley in Stirling, Scotland, as snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures sweep the country
29/30 13 February 2016
London celebrates Chinese New Year, the celebrations are the largest outside Asia.
Performers celebrate the Year of the Monkey in London
30/30 12 February 2016
Flocks of geese fly at dawn along the coastline of The Wash near Snettisham in east Britain
The CMA has three months to iron out its proposals and experts say there could be ways to keep a lid on the marketing. A limit could be placed on how many messages a customer can receive or a rule could mean they can only be contacted through their existing supplier which may, for example, include letters from rivals when sending out bills.
A CMA spokesman said the group is aware of concerns about the database and will take measures to deal with them, such as giving people the option to opt out.
The database will be Ofgem-controlled, only licensed suppliers will have access and their continued access will depend on them complying with strictly controlled criteria on how they communicate with customers, he said. This could mean suppliers offering to save you hundreds of pounds a year and we think that it s a worthwhile offer for customers to hear.
The CMA report is the result of an 18-month investigation into the industry.
It met with a mixed reception as some welcomed the decision to help the most vulnerable in society through a prepayment meter price cap while others said the cap should also apply to those on standard tariffs.
We have found that the six largest suppliers have learned to take many of their existing customer databases for granted, not just over prices, but with service and quality, said Roger Witcomb, head of the investigation.
Yet in those parts of the retail markets where competition is working, customers are benefiting to the tune of hundreds of pounds a year by switching, he added.
Ofgem said it would work closely with the CMA on how to implement its proposals.
A female security guard working at a Jerusalem police station was arrested and sent to house arrest after allegedly contacting the anti-assimilation group Lehava several weeks ago.
The guard is suspected of having passed on information to Lehava regarding a female police officer who reportedly is having a romantic relationship with an Arab man.
After the officer lent the guard her cellular phone, the guard noticed messages indicating a relationship between the officer and an Arab man. After taking screenshots of the messages, she forwarded the material to Lehava.
A member of Lehava later contacted the police officer s brother, notifying him of the relationship.
Once the officer discovered what had transpired, she filed a formal complaint against both the security guard and the Lehava activist who spoke with her brother. Police quickly arrested the guard.
The judge noted that Lehava is a legal organization and that it had committed no crime in contacting the police officer s family.
The police s request to extend the guard s arrest were rejected, and she was released to house arrest.
The Lehava activist involved was brought in for questioning and released on his own recognizance.
It remains unclear if a formal indictment will be brought against the security guard.
Lehava director Bentzi Gopshtain responded to the incident noting the organization s service to families desperate to prevent their children from assimilating and leaving the Jewish people.
We Lehava get a huge amount of calls from families asking for assistance, saying Help us, our daughter is going out with Arabs.
We contact those girls and explain to them, respectfully, what they re likely to encounter in such a relationship.
Most of the time, thank God, we are successful.
In this particular case we contacted the family, who were stunned by the news and tried unsuccessfully to extricate her from the relationship.
Unfortunately, when we file complaints against Arabs who attack or harass Jewish girls, the police aren t quick to address it; but when a police officer is almost taken out of a relationship, all of the sudden they rush to interrogate whoever gave us the information and the Jew who tried to help this girl.
We ll continue to help these Jewish girls.
This is not the first time police have arrested individuals for passing on information to Lehava.
In February, Border Police officer Matan Amichai11 was arrested for photographing the identification card of a Jewish girl traveling to Eilat with another Jewish girl and two Arab men from Silwan in Jerusalem.
Amichai later forwarded the material on to Lehava.