Gas and electricity prices in Britain have risen twice as fast as on the continent over the last year, according to new figures.
Gas and electricity bills for British customers rose by 29.7% – compared to an average increase of 15% in the rest of the EU.
The figures from international monitors, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show below-average rises in other big member states – French consumers’ costs went up by 14% and German bills by 12.2%.
Ofgem figures out of date
Latest figures from regulator Ofgem suggest that gas charges in Britain are the lowest in Europe and electricity prices are on a par with other EU states.
However, Ofgem’s data is not as up-to-date as the OECD’s as it does not take this year’s record price hikes into account. Average gas and electricity bills for British households now stand at £1375.
Energy industry points to global pressures
The Energy Retail Association (ERA), which represents gas and electricity suppliers in the UK, claimed that the OECD’s figures fail to demonstrate that British customers have enjoyed historically very low prices compared to Europe and the rest of the world.
A spokesperson for the ERA said: ‘Primarily, this is due to us having our own vast reserves of natural gas in the North Sea and not being exposed to global prices in the same way as we are now.
‘We are no longer an energy island. With increased demand from growing economies such as India and China, the prices we now pay for our energy are more vulnerable to fluctuations across the world.’
Consumers need transparent energy pricing
Which? principal economist John Holmes said: ‘The energy suppliers say that they can’t do anything about high global prices. This may be true, but more transparency is needed to explain the link between the wholesale prices that suppliers face and the price that consumers pay. A recent survey found that only 12% of Which? members thought their supplier had done everything it could to avoid raising prices.’
Switching energy suppliers
Alison Morrison, from Which?’s free and independent switching site, Switch with Which?, said: ‘If you’re feeling the pinch of higher energy prices then it pays to make sure you’re on the best deal available.
‘Switching from quarterly cash or cheque to monthly direct debit payment can reduce your bills significantly. And going for an online tariff will save you even more.’
On average, customers who used Switch with Which? saved £233 in a year, based on figures gathered from October 2007 to March 2008.
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