Welsh energy supplier SWALEC has announced that its prices for electricity and gas will rise by 9% from 15 October. It has around a million domestic customers in Wales.
SWALEC is part of the SSE group - the UK's second largest energy firm. All of the big six energy suppliers increased their prices in 2011. This year, there have been several cuts made to tariffs, including SSE reducing domestic gas prices by 4.5% in March.
The announcement comes on the day Consumer Focus Wales publishes research suggesting more than 70% of consumers in Wales are worried about paying their energy bills in future, expecting that prices will rise. It found 8% of consumers say they have fallen behind with bill payments in the last year.
There is an enormous amount of advice around for people who are concerned about the cost of energy for their home, and how to safe money - perhaps by switching supplier, or installing insulation.
Lydnsey Kearton, from Consumer Focus Wales, is urging customers to contact their supplier if they are struggling to afford their energy bills, as suppliers have a responsibility to help you if you do have a problem paying.
Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice have five 'top tips' for people who fall behind with their bills:
- Always contact your energy firm as soon as you realise you might have trouble with paying; debts will build-up and be harder to pay off the longer you leave them; your supplier has a responsibility to help you if you have problems paying your bill
- Tell your energy supplier what you can afford to pay - they have to take this into account in agreeing repayments of the money you owe
- Ask your energy company, your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99 to find out about other free energy help available; for example you could qualify for a discount off your bill or free insulation to help your home stop leaking heat and cut your bills
- Even if you are in debt you may still be able to switch to a cheaper deal with your current supplier, especially if you pay by cash, cheque or pre-payment meter; if you pay by pre-payment meter and have less than £200 of debt you can also switch to a cheaper deal with another supplier
- Financial help is available which could make it easier to afford your bills - check you are receiving all of the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to by getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or visiting www.adviceguide.org.uk
There is more help and advice on the DirectGov website energy advice pages, and the Citizens Advice Bureau's website has a number of leaflets and help guides to download, with information on how to get the best deal.
The Citizens Advice Bureau and Ofgem have also made some short films on things like 'Struggling to pay', 'Handling sales people' and 'Being energy efficient'.