npower and Scottish Power have today both announced massive energy bill hikes, with the latter increasing gas bills by 34%.
The two firms are the last of the big six to introduce a second round of energy hikes this year. British Gas, E.ON, Scottish and Southern Energy and EDF Energy all putting up prices over the last few weeks.
Higher energy bills have been blamed on soaring wholesale energy costs, with crude oil prices up 79% and gas and coal up 122% over the last 12 months.
npower, which last put up prices in January, says its latest round of hikes will see customers pay an extra £60 a year (14%) for electricity and an extra £162 (26%) for gas.
However, it says the rises are much smaller than those imposed by British Gas, which in July told customers they must pay up to 35% more to heat their homes.
From 1 September, Scottish Power will increase dual fuel prices by 25%, electricity prices by 9% and gas prices will rise by 34%.
Giuseppe Di Vita, managing director of npower, says: “I’m sorry we’ve had to increase our prices – and we’ve made this decision extremely reluctantly, especially as household budgets are being squeezed so much at the moment. There is help available for people who can’t afford to pay their bills – and we want our customers to get in touch if they’re worried.”
Customers of pre-payment meters have been spared the worst of the price hikes, and as such will see their bills increase by an average of 9% for electricity or 23% for gas. npower has also increased the discount offered to its monthly direct debit, dual fuel customers from £80 a year to £100.
Willie MacDiarmid, a director at Scottish Power, says: “These are difficult times and we understand the financial impact this announcement will have on our customers. However we have worked very hard to protect people for as long as possible from these considerable increases in the wholesale market."
Experts say consumers must now learn to live with higher energy bills.
Tim Wolfenden, head of home services at uSwitch.com, says: "Consumers have got to adjust and there are two key steps to this - making sure we pay the lowest possible price for our energy and learning to use less of it.
"Consumers should look to pay by direct debit and move to an online plan where possible to get the best available prices. Now that the final increases are known, consumers should switch today so that they can start to make immediate savings."