Bosses Who Fix Energy Prices Face Prison
Executives who rig wholesale gas and electricity prices face up to two years in jail under Government plans aimed at driving down the cost of household bills.
Those who fix prices at an artificial level would be committing a criminal offence if the Department of Energy (DECC) gets its way.
Such behaviour is currently investigated by regulators, whose powers extend only to fines.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "Manipulating the energy market is absolutely unacceptable, and these proposals provide a much stronger deterrent - more in line with the approach taken in the financial markets.
"The Government is doing everything it can to help consumers by increasing market competition to drive prices down."
The move is a response to rising consumer bills and widespread mistrust of the so-called Big Six electricity and gas suppliers
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: "Anyone found to be manipulating wholesale energy markets deserves to have the book thrown at them.
"Rumours of market abuse do nothing for consumer confidence in the energy market so we support the Government tightening the rules and bringing in stiffer penalties to deter wrongdoing."
Under the plans it would become a crime to make misleading claims or conceal facts about wholesale energy prices in order to manipulate the market - especially if such an act could affect competition.
Anyone who uses insider information to buy or sell on the wholesale market would also be committing a criminal offence.
The proposals are at consultation stage and could come into force across the UK in spring next year.
Their unveiling follows a study this week which showed rising energy bills was the top concern for households.