Energy suppliers 'penalising poor'Watchdog says hikes hit poor and elderly hardest

04 September 2006

 

home gas hob 2

Energy suppliers are charging poorer people more for gas and electricity, a coalition of consumer groups and charities has warned.

Fuel charges continue to rocket - this week sees two suppliers raise prices. The coalition, which includes Energywatch, Help the Aged, and Citizens Advice,  says that children living in poverty, the elderly and the disabled are among those suffering most.

Millions of low-income households now use prepayment meters as a way to help them budget. But the group says that people with such meters pay up to £173 more for gas and up to £113 more for electricity in a year, compared with customers who pay quarterly.

The coalition has written a letter to the six big energy firms - British Gas, EDF Energy, Npower, Powergen, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy - urging them to make prepaid meter tariffs the same as those for bills paid quarterly.

Winter worries

The coalition fears that increasing numbers of consumers will disconnect themselves this winter because they'll struggle to find the money to feed their meter. 

Energywatch chief executive Allan Asher said:'We need action now to ease the hardship of the most vulnerable in society. We expect suppliers to do more to recognise their responsibilities and adopt policies which reduce the burden on the poorest who are often paying the most.’

Since 2003 domestic gas prices have risen by 87 per cent and electricity prices by 56 per cent.

The latest British Gas price hike comes into force today.  The company’s 10.7 million gas customers will now pay 12.4 per cent more while its 5.8 million electricity customers will see a rise of 9.4 per cent on their fuel bills.

Switch with Which?

Which? runs its own impartial energy price comparison site - Switch with Which? - where you can check which supplier offers the best deal for your gas and electricity.

People can save, on average, £160 by switching suppliers - with the biggest savings likely to be made by people who haven't switched before.