Following last week's announcement by npower of an average 17.2% increase for gas prices and an average rise of 12.7% for electricity, Ofgem (the energy regulator) has tried to damp down fears of increasing residential gas and electricity prices.
Ofgem, in a response to a letter from Chancellor Alistair Darling, said that market forces (ie customers being able to switch accounts) would ensure that the consumer would not suffer unduly.
"In Britain's competitive market some energy suppliers will be better at buying their energy than others and will be able to price at an advantage to their competitors,' Ofgem said.
Over the last five years we seen this happen and companies with high prices have been punished severely by customers. With customers switching at record levels this is set to continue."
This is all very well. However, it assumes that other energy suppliers will not follow npower's lead. Npower disagrees, and said that it expects other suppliers to "follow suit very shortly".
Darling and the government will be sweating in their beds, fearful of the effect that such dramatic price rises will have on the voters' perceptions of the effectiveness of their handling of the economy.