The watchdog said that only a competition inquiry could stop the relentless hammering of consumers, who have been on the receiving end of more than 10 price hikes from major energy companies this year alone.

Energywatch remains convinced that only a Competition Commission inquiry into the problems in the energy market will tell consumers whether punishing energy prices in Britain are unavoidable or whether they can be explained, largely, by a market structure that inhibits vigorous competition, commented Allan Asher, chief executive of Energywatch. The focus and determination of the EU review of energy markets must be matched by a similar resolve in Britain.

The watchdog’s renewed call for an inquiry swiftly follows the announcement that Scottish and Southern Energy is to increase its gas and electricity prices as of January 1, 2007, by 12.2% and 9.4%, respectively.