The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) thinks that heat networks need to be regulated in order to give consumers more protection.

Following an inquiry that began in December, the competition watchdog has reached its provisional conclusions and is consulting over the next step.

It believes some heat network operators have a “monopoly of supply” because users can’t switch to an alternative form of heating if they have complaints over prices or levels of service.

Customers who move into properties are often not told that they will be supplied with heat from a centralised network, the report added.

‘Regulation is needed’

Rachel Merelie, Senior Director at the CMA, said: “Heat networks can play an important role in cutting carbon emissions and keeping down energy bills, but some customers are not getting a good deal for this essential service.

“There is currently no regulator with responsibility for heat networks, so customers do not automatically benefit from the rights and protections that gas and electricity customers receive.

“Our current view is that regulation is now needed, to ensure that heat network customers receive equivalent levels of protection to gas and electricity customers.”

> Read the CMA's announcement