British Gas customers have been hit by a 22 per cent increase in their fuel bills on what is being described as the ‘bleakest day yet’ for energy users.
Centrica, which owns British Gas, says its latest electricity and gas price increase will take effect from 1 March. It’s blaming the hike on soaring wholesale gas prices.
The company has 11.3 million gas accounts and 5.9 electricity accounts and Centrica said it hoped there would be no need for any further price rises this year. However, it stressed there could be no guarantees in such a volatile market.
Managing Director Mark Clare said: ‘The energy map is being redrawn with Britain now dependent on gas imports from Europe – a market the European Commission says is ‘seriously malfunctioning’.
Which? Head of Services Research Jenni Conti says this latest price rise is further proof consumers should shop around for the best deals:
‘Winter’s not over yet, and now British Gas customers are looking at a big increase in their bills. We strongly advise people to check the deal they’re on to see if they could save themselves money by getting a cheaper deal elsewhere. Particularly if you’ve never switched, switching away from British Gas could prove to be well worth your while.’
Which? runs its own energy price comparison website (see related links below) that helps consumers choose the best energy provider for themselves.
Consumer group Energywatch said the British Gas announcement represented the ‘bleakest day yet’ for energy consumers and said the average annual energy bill was now GBP 628 for gas and GBP 391 for electricity.
Its Chief Executive Allan Asher warned that three million customers could be in fuel poverty by the end of the year.
‘This is the most serious single event in two years of trauma for energy consumers. British Gas is not only the biggest supplier, it has the greatest number of customers using pre-payment meters and the highest number of customers on the priority service register, who are the most vulnerable consumers.’
Energywatch says British Gas is now the most expensive gas and electricity supplier in the country.
Earlier this week EDF Energy announced its customers will be charged nearly 15 per cent extra for gas, and almost 5 per cent extra for electricity from next month.
Scottish Power also confirmed that its customers face further price rises of up to 15 per cent on their energy bills. From March its electricity prices will rise by 8 per cent and gas by 15 per cent.