Ed Miliband Proposes New Energy Price Controls
Ed Miliband has proposed new controls on energy prices to give small businesses "equal protection" with households from "unacceptable" treatment by energy companies.
The Labour leader said annual energy bills for small businesses had risen by an average of £10,000 since 2010.
He called for a new regulator to be formed with powers to ban suppliers from changing people's tariffs without their consent, or hitting them with "crippling" back-dated bills.
Sticking to his cost of living agenda, he also reiterated plans for a 20-month price freeze for households and businesses when he addressed the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Manchester later.
He said the move would save small fiirms, on average, £5,500.
"It is unacceptable that companies like yours do not have even basic protections that are available to households under the law from unfair energy contracts," Mr Miliband said.
"Since the turn of the century, the number of people working for themselves has increased by over one million.
"Small businesses are now the bedrock of our economy - and they will be even more so in the future.
"Some of the costs of running a small business have got larger and larger in recent years. The next labour government is determined to tackle this problem, and give every sort of business the chance to succeed."
Mr Miliband also pledged new legal rights for business organisations like the FSB to take cases such as late payment by firms to court on behalf of members.
Labour would also invite the FSB to help set the agenda for the new Competition and Markets Authority's investigations - like Which? and Citizens Advice already do - to ensure a fair deal for consumers and businesses.
It comes after energy watchdog Ofgem on Thursday referred the sector to the CMA amid concerns over profits, price co-ordination and barriers to new suppliers.
The competition inquiry could lead to the so-called 'big six' firms being broken up.
Mr Miliband said following the announcement there could be "no justification for further price rises".