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Majority 'opposed to green levies'
A large majority of consumers oppose green levies on energy bills and back Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to "roll them back", according to a new poll.
The survey found almost three-quarters (72%) believe energy prices will affect the way they vote in the general election, with more (40%) backing Mr Cameron's approach to the issue than those of Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is promising a price freeze (33%) or Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has indicated he will fight to protect the green levies (7%).
But the Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday found that more people blame the energy companies (59%) than either the current government (15%) or the previous Labour administration (15%) for the spiralling cost of gas and electricity.
The poll came as energy minister Greg Barker promised to "come down like a ton of bricks" on energy companies which are stockpiling cash from customers' direct debits.
Unless customers ask for the money back, energy companies are able to hold on to sums from monthly payments in excess of the amount owed for power used, and are able to earn interest on the money while it is sitting in their accounts. Industry observers believe the total held could be as high as £2 billion.
The Big Six suppliers are being summoned to talks with ministers about the issue, and Whitehall sources told the Mail on Sunday they could face fines or be encouraged to pay customers interest on the money.
Mr Barker told the paper: "Customers will rightly feel outraged that they signed up to direct debit payments for cheap tariffs but instead find their cash stockpiled.
"We need to stamp this out now and energy firms must come clean on how much cash they are sitting on. If we find serious abuse, rest assured we will come down on them like a ton of bricks."
An Npower spokesman told the paper: "We automatically refund any customer with over £60 credit at this time."
A Scottish Power spokesman said: " Scottish Power will pay a customer £1 for every full multiple of £33 above a minimum credit value of £100 - to the maximum payout of £12 for a credit balance of £496."
An SSE spokesman said: "If customers are more than £100 in credit, w e automatically refund the credit back to their bank account."
A British Gas spokesman said: " The amount of time customers are in debit far outweighs the amount of time customers are in credit."
And an EDF spokesman said: "Monthly direct debits are the cheapest way for people to pay their bills."
:: Survation questioned 1,000 people for the Mail on Sunday on October 25.
The poll found that 60% said they opposed the green taxes which add an average £112 to annual household energy bills, against just 18% who supported them. Some 61% said they would support the repeal of some of the levies, compared to 11% who would not.
Some 35% said that Mr Miliband's plan for a 20-month freeze on prices following the 2015 general election would help keep the cost of bills down, but 54% said that energy companies would get round it by raising prices before or after the freeze period.