BRITAIN’S biggest energy firms are set for a £1billion windfall as they hike prices for hard-pressed loyal customers from Thursday.
Around ten million families on standard tariffs — many already with money struggles as a result of Covid — face bill rises of almost £100.
It comes after energy regulator Ofgem raised the price cap on standard variable tariffs.
They are the contracts that most people will be on if they have not switched supplier in the past year or so.
The change will increase the charges paid by a typical family on a standard variable tariff by £96, bringing the average bill up to £1,138 per year.
Added together, it makes a huge £1billion for power giants, analysis for Mr Money shows.
The Big Six energy firms have all said they are putting their prices up following the increase to the cap, which will affect millions of customers.
‘Charge households over-the-odds’
Of those companies, Eon, npower and British Gas have said they will put up prices by the maximum allowed, with SSE and EDF increasing prices to just £1 below it.
A number of other energy companies have also raised their prices to match — or very nearly match — the cap, including Shell Energy and Utility Warehouse, hitting a further 450,000 people.
Analysis by auto-switching site Look After My Bills shows that more than 12million customers will see increases to their bills on Thursday.
Simona Rutkauskaite, from Look After My Bills, said: “We added up all the increases — and it’s £1billion.
“With families across the country still suffering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this could not be coming at a worse time.
“Yet again, the UK’s biggest energy firms are seeking to profit at the expense of customers who deserve better.
“The price cap was put in place to protect hard-pressed families. But energy companies continue to find ways to charge households over the odds for their household bills, treating the cap as a target to hit rather than the absolute maximum they should be charging households.
“The positive is that there are already many tariffs that are more competitive than the price cap. We would urge customers fearing these hikes to their bills to sign up to an auto-switching service that could save them around £262 a year.”
Simona added: “The energy price cap was introduced by the Government in 2019 and was designed to make bills fairer for customers by limiting the amount energy companies can charge per unit of energy used.
“The price cap is reviewed every six months by Ofgem to reflect changes in the wholesale cost of energy — the price energy companies have to pay to actually acquire the energy.”
- Yesterday The Sun showed how easy it is to switch suppliers. If you missed it, you can read it now online at thesun.co.uk.
What to do if you can’t pay
By Jonathan Brearley
I KNOW the increase in the price cap comes at a time when many people are facing financial hardship.
My message to Sun readers struggling to pay their energy bills – particularly those worried by rising prices – is to be proactive and contact your supplier.
Under Ofgem rules, suppliers are required to put customers who are behind on their bills on affordable repayment plans.
They must also provide emergency credit to those struggling to top up their pre-payment meters and should not disconnect their customers.
You can also ask your supplier if you are eligible for an annual £140 rebate through the Government’s warm home discount scheme.
If yours is one of the 15million households covered by the price cap and you want to avoid the increase on Thursday, you can shop around and save up to £100.
But if you do not want to switch, or are unable to, tell your supplier to put you on a cheaper deal.
Help at hand for struggling consumers
IF you get in a muddle over your warm home discount, your winter fuel payment and your cold weather payment, we are not surprised. It baffles even Mr Money.
We summarise them here, plus other services Ofgem requires of energy firms to help older folk, hard-up families and those considered vulnerable, perhaps with a disability, to pay bills and get good service.
WARM HOUSE DISCOUNT: A rebate of £140 a year on your electricity bill – mostly benefiting OAPs on smaller pensions and some hard-up families. A “core” group of over-65s who receive pension credits get it automatically. Others must apply to their supplier.
WINTER FUEL PAYMENT: Over-65s get an automatic payout of between £100 and £300 to help with winter fuel bills. People aged 80-plus living alone receive £300. Younger pensioners get £100 each or £200 for couples, but it varies if you get benefits. It is tax-free for those born on or before October 5, 1954.
Those who qualify but don’t get paid automatically should claim at gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/how-to-claim.
COLD WEATHER PAYMENT: If the average temperature in an area averages 0C (32F) or less for seven consecutive days, you can get £25.
Those who get pension credit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or universal credit are eligible.
They should be automatic but you can check with the universal credit helpline. The payment covers November 1 to March 31 and payouts can be for as many weeks the temperature stays below freezing.
PRIORITY SERVICES REGISTER: This provides additional help for customers who are in vulnerable circumstances, such as the elderly, disabled and particularly hard-up. It gives access to extra services, though not cash handouts.
There is priority assistance if the power cuts out, which would be even more of an issue for seriously ill people compared to a young, healthy family. Quarterly meter readings are provided too, plus large-print or Braille bills.
Customers can contact their supplier to be added to the register if they are eligible.
THINGS ALL FIRMS MUST DO:
- Provide emergency and “friendly hours” credit for pre-payment meter customers
- Offer additional support credit to vulnerable pre-payment customers
- Put people on realistic and sustainable repayment plans based on ability to pay
SOME MAY ALSO:
- Have hardship funds to help customers struggling with their bills (customers should speak to their supplier to see if they qualify)
- Offer payment breaks or reductions
- Refer customers who are struggling to pay to third-party debt advisers
- Suspend credit-meter disconnections for unpaid bills
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