EDF Energy recently became the latest of the major energy suppliers – the so-called ‘Big Six’ – to increase their gas and electricity prices, affecting around 2.4 million customers. The firm claims that their average hike, at 3.9% is less than half that of the increases announced by their peers. With the latest round of price hikes research has revealed that in just over three years energy bills have increased by 36%.
Energy companies are currently under considerable pressure to justify their recent increases, but the news that prices are rising at up to eight times the rate of our wages, won’t do the industry any favours, as more and more households become vulnerable to rising electricity and gas bills.
According to analysis from Citizens Advice, from the period October 2010 to December 2013 energy bills will have risen by 36%. In comparison during the same period wages have risen on average by 4.4%. The research reveals that energy firms have seen their prices rise at three times the rate of inflation – 10.2% over the past three years.
The national charity is deeply concerned about the affect escalating electricity and gas prices are having on our ability to maintain a decent standard of living. Many familes are forced to choose between putting food on the table, clothing their children or heating their homes.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice said many households were finding themselves in a desperate situation because of “enormous escalations” in household energy bills.
“People find they do not have enough money to pay for essentials as increases in daily costs are outstripping low rises in earnings,” she said. “As we head into winter and the latest price rises begin to kick in, more and more people are likely to reach crisis point as they struggle to heat their homes and feed their families.”
The number of energy consumers seeking advice from the Citizens Advice has increased considerably since the latest round of price hikes were first announced last month. Its consumer service has seen the volume of calls double and over 83,000 people have visited the charity’s website for help.
Now that temperatures have dropped, combined with these lastest tariff increases, households risk putting themselves into debut as they struggle to keep warm and put food on the table.
Consumer group Which? is equally concerned about the impact energy bill increases has on already hard-pressed consumers. Executive director Richard Lloyd said: “It’s time for the government to turn up the heat on energy companies and for it to deliver the radical changes that people need. George Osborne should use his autumn statement to cut the big six down to size.”
According to a Which? survey a whopping nine out of ten people blame energy firms wanting to increase their profits for the price rise.
Not surprisingly since the announcement consumers have been keen to source a better deal for their gas and electricity. More visitors than ever have flocked to online comparison sites like uSwitch.com and MoneySupermarket.com, who say the increase in energy tariffs has sparked a frenzy of switching activity over recent weeks.
Energy switching is a popular way to source cheaper energy tariffs. Vulnerable pensioners and families on benefits may be able to apply for a Government grant to install cavity wall and loft insulation and new energy saving boilers for free through the Energy Company Obligation. You can check whether you meet the free boiler scheme criteria by visiting www.boilergrants.co.uk