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Last Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
Firms to lobby EU over gas prices
Gas ring
Gas prices have risen sharply in the past year
British companies are to lobby the EU in an attempt to speed up deregulation of Europe's gas market, amid concerns over rocketing energy costs.

The industry says the sharp rise in prices is partly due to gas imported from Europe being more expensive because of a lack of competition.

Dwindling North Sea gas reserves have left Britain more dependent on imports.

British Gas, Tesco and British Sugar are among those going to Brussels to press their case on Monday.

Energy regulator Ofgem says the lack of competition in Europe is causing gas to become more expensive.

BBC business correspondent Patrick Bartlett said the industry has partly blamed the sharp rise in household energy bills on the price it now pays to buy gas on the European wholesale market.

He said France is seen as the worst offender, with the French power group Electricité de France (EdF) having a near-monopoly.

Germany is also dominated by regional giants, despite liberalising its power market on paper.

The BBC correspondent said the European Commission is already investigating anti-competitive practices in Europe, and will produce a preliminary finding in December.

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