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Britain’s biggest energy firms escaped being hit by Labour’s price freeze and have been ordered to cut their bills. The new Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has written to the six energy firms asking them to ease the pressures that they have put on families.

Since Labour threatened to freeze prices if Ed Miliband became the prime minister, gas and electricity bills increased and since he was defeated in the general election, the prices have not lowered at all. The promise by Labour involved an 18-month freeze, which also allowed energy companies to argue that they could not reduce tariffs too much before the election. This was because they could have been forced to keep them at the new low level.

This also meant that the big six energy companies were able to keep prices artificially high, which in turn, dramatically boosted their profits. The new Conservative government has said that energy firms must take action to reduce their charges. This is a result from the companies who saw their wholesale costs drop by 30%, yet they only reduced bills by 1.3% last winter.

Amber Rudd has written to British Gas, npower, EDF, e.on, Scottish Power and SSE to tell them that they should stop keeping their prices artificially high. In one year, the energy firms’ average profits have increased by 32% to £120 per household, according to the regulator Ofgem. This means that the energy firms are seeing an all-time high on their part.

The consumer group Which? estimated that the average family has lost out on £145 a year because the providers have failed to pass on lower costs. The Competition & Markets Authority has decided to start an inquiry into whether the companies have rigged the market by delaying price cuts. The Authority holds particular concern over the 60% of households who are on standard contracts because they pay more than those on non-standard tariffs. Loyal customers are also missing out on up to £234 over one year because they did not switch providers.