Winter weather means we're all using a lot more gas and electricity at home. So what do suppliers do? Raise prices!
It might not seem fair but don't despair, there are ways to fight back.
Who has raised prices?
All of the UK's big six gas and electricity firms have announced winter price hikes.
SSE was the first energy supplier to confirm price rises. The firm's 9 per cent average price rise took effect on 15 October.
The firm also trades as Swalec, Southern Electric, Atlantic and Scottish Hydro so customers of these firms are also affected by this price hike.
Npower was next with a 8.9 per cent average price rise which will add around £109 to annual bills as of Monday 26 November.
British Gas price rise
This was followed by British Gas, the country's largest energy supplier, which announced a 6 per cent average price hike for customers from 16 November.
This will add around £80 on average to annual household bills.
Next was Scottish Power which announced a 7 per cent price rise from 3 December.
Then came EDF Energy with an announcement of a 10.8 per cent winter price rise that will add around £130 on average to annual bills as of 7 December.
And E.ON has confirmed an 8.7 per cent price rise as of 18 January which will add more than £100 to average annual household bills for customers.
E.ON's New Year price hike takes place little more than two weeks after the firm's pledge not to raise prices in 2012 expires.
Why are prices going up?
The energy firms have blamed rising wholesale prices - the amount they pay for energy – and increased running costs for the increase in bills, along with the cost of introducing energy efficiency programmes.
Will I be affected?
If you're with SSE (which also owns Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, and Atlantic), npower, British Gas, Scottish Power, EDF or E.ON and you're NOT on a fixed or capped tariff (where the price you pay is set for a certain period of time), then you can expect higher bills.
How can I cut costs?
There are two things you need to do - use as little energy as you can and pay less for what you do consume.
To help minimise your consumption, we asked an expert from the Energy Saving Trust to look around a house and offer quick-fix tips on how to save on gas and electricity bills.
To pay less for what you do consume, you need to make sure you’re on the best deal.
Kate Rose, head of energy at Confused.com, says: "If consumers haven't already, we cannot urge them enough to switch now to make sure they are on the cheapest tariff and consider a fixed tariff which will protect them from future price rises."
A fixed or capped tariff sets the unit price (also known as the kilowatt hour or kWh price) of your gas and electricity for a certain period of time, although with capped tariffs, if prices fall, you’ll pay less.
Fixed tariffs with their peace of mind protection against future price rises do tend to be a bit more expensive than variable tariffs.
But with the big six energy suppliers having now gone through their annual cycle of raising prices, you might decide to stick with a variable tariff and hedge your bets that prices won't increase for at least another year.
Switch, fix & save!
As of 18 January, after all the price rises have taken effect, the annual dual fuel bill (where you take gas and electricity from the same supplier) for medium use customers* on a standard tariff with a big six supplier will be a whopping £1,264 on average for those paying by monthly direct debit.
This is according to figures from consumer watchdog Consumer Focus.
But there are savings to be made!
Switching to the current best buy variable tariff as at 8 April, 2013 - the Spark Advance paperless tariff from smaller supplier Spark Energy, with an average annual cost of £1,041 for monthly direct debit customers - could save you £223 a year.
Switching to the current best buy fixed tariff as at 8 April, 2013 - the Thames Fixed Online September 2014 paperless billing tariff from smaller supplier Flow Energy, with an average annual cost of £1,135 for monthly direct debit customers - could save you £129 a year.
And these are average savings based on a medium user* so you might save more depending on your energy consumption.
Check our gas and electricity best buy table for the rundown of the cheapest tariffs.
And don't think that because you're on a prepayment meter you can’t switch and save too – you can. The tips below apply to you too.
How to switch supplier
- Using an online comparison site to switch gas and electricity? You’ll be asked to enter your postcode and details of your current gas and electricity supplier, including the name of your tariff. You should be able to find the name of your tariff on a bill but if not give your current supplier a call and ask. There are hundreds of tariffs on the market so it pays to enter the correct tariff so you get the most accurate price comparison.
- You’ll be asked to enter your annual spend on your bill, or your annual usage. For the most accurate price comparison, enter your usage. You can find this out by calling your current supplier and asking for your usage for the past 12 months, in kilowatt hours (kWh).
- If you don’t know your usage - if you’ve moved into a new property for example - you’ll be asked if you’re a low, medium or high energy user. Find out what category you fall into.
- The search results will show you the cheapest deals for dual fuel (gas and electricity from the same supplier), as well as the cheapest deals for gas and electricity separately. It’s worth checking out the cost of separate deals as while duel fuel is often cheaper, this is not always the case.
- You’re also able to enter how you’d like to pay your bill. It is almost always cheaper to pay by direct debit. Energy firms claim this is because the payment is cheaper to process but the fact is that if you pay by direct debit then your payment is guaranteed, unlike paying on receipt of bill. So suppliers are happy to offer discounts for customers who pay by direct debit.
- If you'd rather talk to someone over the telephone about switching your gas and electricity supply then you can call our freephone service on 0800 310 2403. Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm on Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturday.
*Energy regulator Ofgem defines a medium user as using 16,500 units of gas and 3,300 units of electricity a year