Scottish Power becomes fourth major firm to announce rate hikes, leaving 2.3 million extra households facing higher energy bills


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The Independent Online

Around 2.3 million more households were told they face higher energy bills today when Scottish Power became the fourth major firm to announce rate hikes with winter just around the corner.

The firm said it will charge an average of seven per cent more, pushing a typical customer’s direct debit payments on their annual dual fuel bill up to £1,271.

The news came as British Gas faced a customer backlash after its own price rise last Friday and price rises for nearly 9.5 million households supplied by energy firm SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, came into force. Npower also announced increases in its customers’ bills last week, prompting fears of a “long, cold winter” for some.

Industry analysts said customers would be asking themselves if the firms – four of the “Big Six” - were displaying “pack behaviour”, rather than responding to volatile commodity costs. The comments, made by Consumer Focus director of energy Adam Scorer, came after the Chancellor George Osborne urged energy suppliers to reconsider last week.

And many British Gas customers are still posting messages of protest on the firm’s Facebook site saying they will not be able to heat their homes in the cold weather – three days after its own price hike was announced.

“British Gas, in these difficult times of austerity, do you have to hike prices when we are struggling? You will still be a profit making business if you don’t put up prices. Please be considerate of your customers - not greedy,” Posted Wendy Ollett on the company’s Facebook profile.

Another Ralph Coutts, wrote: “I hope your all stay warm this winter, unfortunately your customer’s won’t.” [sic] Shaun Finn wrote: “…with your prices there are more and more innocent people put into fuel property while you fat cats getting fatter with our hard earned cash.”

However, some offered a more supportive view. Jez Armstrong wrote: “I’ll just do what most people with common sense do and put a jumper on.”

British Gas added £80 to its typical annual dual fuel bill after an average increase of 6% affecting 8.5 million customers from November 16. Around 4,000 customers on its sustainable energy tariff, which provides power from renewable sources, will be affected by an additional 11 per cent leap in their electricity bills. Rival Npower followed with an average rise of 8.8 per cent for gas and 9.1 per cent for electricity. SSE added 9 per cent from today, costing the average customer an extra £102.

Scottish Power blamed the price hike on increased costs, especially for transporting gas and electricity to customers’ homes and the cost of energy efficiency programmes. Neil Clitheroe, chief executive of retail and generation, said: “We work hard to protect our customers and we regret that we’ve had to announce a price increase today.”

British Gas has not yet addressed the slew of complaints posted online but, last week, managing director Phil 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.”