January 22, 2015 / 2:12 PM / 3 years ago

New UK criminal penalties for energy market abuse could start in April

LONDON (Reuters) - New penalties for energy market abuse, including potential prison terms for people who manipulate the gas and electricity markets, could come into force in April, the British government said on Thursday.

Energy regulators can currently investigate and fine people found breaching rules but cannot send them to prison or impose a criminal record.

When the new penalties come into force, anyone found guilty of rigging wholesale gas and electricity prices could face up to two years in prison.

It would be a criminal offence to fix the price of energy at an artificial level or use insider information to buy or sell energy on the wholesale market.

It would also be an offence to make misleading claims or conceal facts about wholesale energy prices to manipulate the market, especially if it could affect competition.

The government said in August it wanted to widen the regulator's powers to safeguard consumers from unfair practices

Following a consultation, the government said it was going ahead with the new criminal sanctions.

The changes remain subject to parliamentary approval.

editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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