Last week's Queen's Speech offered a further glimmer of hope for small stores suffering at the hands of the energy bullies.

A proposed Energy Bill, while aimed primarily at domestic accounts, could help smaller businesses by providing new measures to support vulnerable customers. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) intends to persuade Ofgem, the industry regulator, to include members' stores in the scheme.

The Bill also gives Ofgem new power to tackle the energy companies, and help it protect consumers, as well as considering longer term actions to promote competition.

ACS chief executive James Lowman called the Energy Bill "an important step in creating an energy ombudsman with genuine influence", but added that there was a long way to go.

"Ofgem may be receiving more powers to protect consumers, but for small businesses this is not cause for celebration," he said.

"Vulnerable retailers will still be defenceless in the face of the bullying tactics employed by energy companies and the roll over contracts which lead to grossly unfair tariffs. This needs to stop."

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