<i><b>Millions face new energy bill increases</b></i>

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The Independent Online


Six million customers of Powergen, the gas and electricity supplier, are paying higher charges following price increases that came into effect on Wednesday. The company raised its electricity prices by 7 per cent and gas by 12 per cent.

Powergen blamed the increases - which will add £52 to the annual bill of a customer who buys gas and electricity from the company - on rising costs in the wholesale gas market. The price of wholesale gas, often used to power electricity-generating power stations, is linked to the price of oil, which has risen by 50 per cent in the past 12 months.

But consumer groups attacked the company and rivals, which have also increased prices. A spokesman for watchdog Energywatch said: "Oil producers and energy retailers are doing very well at the expense of the consumer." Earlier this year, British Gas, the largest fuel supplier in the country, warned it could be forced to increase prices by 15 per cent before the end of the year. Like most fuel companies, it has raised charges several times during the past 18 months.