Households across Britain could be plunged into a "long, cold winter" after two major energy suppliers increased their prices today.
- British Gas put an extra £80 on to its typical annual dual fuel bill after an average increase of 6%. The price increase will start on November 16.
- npower announced a 9.1% hike in electricity prices and 8.8% for gas. The increase comes into force on November 26.
- SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, said it will increase tariffs by an average of 9% on Monday.
- Attention will now switch to other big suppliers, EDF and Scottish Power, while E.ON has guaranteed a 2012 price freeze.
Both British Gas and npower said the rising costs are outside of their control but unions and consumer groups have hit out at the energy suppliers and called on the Government to take immediate action.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said:
With winter approaching, low-waged people will now be terrified about how they are going to find another £80.
Money from the poor is going to the pockets of Centrica shareholders. This is further shameful abuse by out-of-control, greedy fuel companies, sitting on piles of profit.
The pre-winter increase from British Gas comes months after parent company Centrica posted a 23% rise in half-year profits at its residential arm to £345 million.
With today's energy price hikes along with an increase in some food and mortgage costs, there were fears about how the elderly and hard-up will cope.
Consumer Focus recently said six million households in England were planning on heating cut backs this winter because of cost worries.
They have encouraged customers "to do what they can" to cut bills by switching tariff, payment method and supplier.
Mike Jeram, of Unison, said:
It will be a long, cold winter for many pensioners, the unemployed and for low paid workers and their families.
Just days ago we learned that the cost of fruit and vegetables have gone up by a massive 50% in the last year. Any increase in energy prices is likely to tip more families into debt and into the hands of unscrupulous pay-day loan companies.
In August 2011, British Gas put gas and electricity tariffs up by 18% and 16% respectively but this was followed by a 5% drop in electricity prices in January when prices eased.
British Gas managing director Phil Bentley answered questions from ITV News viewers, following the price hike announcement.
Energy and Climate Minister Greg Barker said the Government's winter Energy Bill would give regulator Ofgem "extra teeth" to improve energy markets.
What we need is action. We are bringing in the Energy Bill this winter that will reform the markets, it will be the biggest shake-up since privatisation, in addition, we are giving extra teeth to the regulator Ofgem.
We are also rolling out the Green Deal this winter. This is the biggest ever energy efficiency programme, that will help millions improve their homes so they are better insulated. This is probably the most ambitious energy efficiency programme in Europe, if not the world.
I am determined to help families, students in digs, pensioners, everyone, to benefit from the Green Deal, which will provide a long-term solution to people so they are less dependent on energy companies.
How the energy price hikes will affect you:
- British Gas - The company's average annual energy bills will reach almost £1,265 for direct debit customers and £1,347 for cash and cheque customers. The energy supplier has 16 million customers.
- npower - A typical dual fuel customer will pay £1,252 by direct debit and £1,357 for cash and cheque customers. npower has 6.5 million gas and electricity accounts.
Figures from Consumer Focus.