Millions of British household budgets are set to be squeezed further as British Gas and npower's winter gas and electricity price hikes take effect.
British Gas' 6 per cent average price hike for gas and electricity customers takes effect on Friday, 16 November.
This will add around £80 on average to annual household dual fuel (gas and electricity from the same supplier) bills for British Gas customers, according to figures from the energy firm.
The means the annual household dual fuel bill for British Gas customers will rise from £1,238 to £1,318 on average.
Higher winter energy bills
British Gas is the UK's largest gas and electricity firm and the price hike will affect an estimated 8.5 million homes in the UK, although the firm's customers on fixed-price tariffs will remain unaffected.
On Monday, 26 November, npower's 8.9 per cent average price hike will take effect, adding around £109 to annual bills for customers.
This will take the annual household dual fuel bill from £1,213 to £1,322 on average for npower customers, according to the energy firm's figures.
The price hike will affect around 3 million customers.
British Gas managing director Phil Bentley said the escalating costs were out of his control, despite the company posting a 23 per cent leap in half-year profits to £345 million a few months ago.
Bentley said: "Britain's North Sea gas supplies are running out and British Gas has to pay the going rate for gas in a competitive global marketplace.
"Furthermore, the investment needed to maintain and upgrade the national grid to deliver energy to our customers' homes, and the costs of the government's policies for a clean, energy-efficient Britain, are all going up."
'External factors' blamed for rise
Paul Massara, npower's chief commercial officer, said: "There is never a good time to increase energy bills, particularly when so many people are working hard to make ends meet.
"But the costs of new statutory schemes, increases in distribution charges and the price of gas for the coming winter are all being driven up by external factors, for example government policy.
"Although we have managed to smooth out the worst fluctuations and protect our customers for as long as we can, we are now having to pass on some of these costs."
Other firms raise prices
Rival provider SSE was the first energy supplier to confirm price rises this winter.
Around 5 million electricity customers and 3.4 million gas customers are affected by the 9 per cent average price rise which took effect on Monday, 15 October.
SSE also trades as Swalec, Southern Electric, Atlantic and Scottish Hydro so customers of these firms will also receive higher bills.
Meanwhile, a 7 per cent average price rise by Scottish Power takes effect on 3 December and EDF Energy's 10.8 per cent price hike on 7 December.
How to beat price hikes
Research from consumer watchdog Consumer Focus suggests that more than six million households in England plan to cut back on their heating this winter because they are worried about paying their bills.
But besides cutting back on your energy use, it also makes sense to check that you're paying the lowest price for your gas and electricity.
It may be that switching to another gas and electricity supplier will save you money.
Kate Rose, head of energy at Confused.com said: "Opting for a fixed or capped tariff can offer price security.
"And a dual fuel tariff where your gas and electricity is provided by the same supplier and paying by direct debit are easy steps customers can take to lower their energy costs."
Kate Rose, head of energy at Confused.com, comments on British Gas' price rise:
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.