George Osborne has pledged to save families up to £470 a year by boosting competition and cutting red tape in areas such as banking, utilities and mobile phones.
A blueprint unveiled by the Chancellor today sets out plans to generate savings for consumers in "essential" markets where 40% of average disposable income – nearly £10,000 a year – is spent.
Osborne says: "This broad package of reforms will make markets work better for families. Driving competition will improve choice for people and ensure they get a better deal. And cutting red tape will help businesses grow and thrive."
The reforms include the following, although whether they apply to households across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales depends on devolution, as different rules already apply in some industries:
- Banking. Boosting competition in banking with the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) launching their 'New Bank Start-Up Unit' on 20 January 2016, which will provide assistance to new banks wanting to enter the market. But you don't need to wait for this, see our Best Bank Accounts guide for up to £150 switching bonuses and up to 5% in-credit interest now.
- Broadband. Improving transparency in broadband pricing, with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigating whether "teaser" offers are misleading consumers. The ASA will publish research into this area in January 2016 with its proposals planned to be published later in the spring. See our Cheap Broadband guide to get the best buys now.
- Dentistry. Making dentistry charges and treatment plans clearer and easier to understand by spring 2016. See our Dental guide for your need-to-knows.
- Mobile phones. Pushing mobile phone companies to unlock handsets automatically at the end of contracts, rather than forcing people to spend up to £20 to have it done. A consultation on the issue will launch next year. See our Cheap Mobiles guide now for 30+ tips to find the best deal and cut costs.
- Pharmacies. Examining the NHS community pharmacy market to ensure it's working as efficiently as possible, to encourage competition and innovation, and to make sure pharmacies offer online, delivery-to-door and click and collect prescription services. The Government believes this will save time for working people. See our Cheap and Free Prescriptions guide to save on the cost of medication now.
- Price comparison websites. The Competition and Markets Authority plans to analyse price comparison websites during 2016 to ensure "the opportunities they provide are being fully realised". The Government says price comparison websites have helped millions get a better deal on essential services, but consumers do not always trust them.
- School uniforms. Cutting costs of school uniforms by putting current "best practice" guidance into law. See our Cheap School Uniform guide for all the best deals.
- Water. Businesses and non-household customers will be able to switch water suppliers from 2017, and by next summer regulator Ofwat will assess the costs and benefits of extending the right to households. See our Cut Your Water Bills guide for big meter savings, freebies and more.
Additional reporting by the Press Association.