MILLIONS of households will see their energy bills rise by up to £96 from tomorrow – but you might be able to save as much as £280 by switching.
Ofgem, the energy regulator, is upping the maximum price suppliers can charge for electricity and gas from £1,042 a year to £1,138.
The price cap hike was confirmed last month and affects around 11million households on standard variable tariffs.
Some 4million households on prepayment meters will also see bills rise by £87, from £1,069 to £1,156.
The increase will see a return to pre-pandemic levels and come into effect from tomorrow, April 1, 2021.
How to save on your energy bills
SWITCHING energy providers can sound like a hassle – but fortunately it’s pretty straight forward to change supplier – and save lots of cash.
Shop around – If you’re on an SVT deal you are likely throwing away around £300 a year. Use a comparion site such as MoneySuperMarket.com, uSwitch or EnergyHelpline.com to see what deals are available to you.
The cheapest deals are usually found online and are fixed deals – meaning you’ll pay a fixed amount usually for 12 months.
Switch – When you’ve found one, all you have to do is contact the new supplier.
It helps to have the following information – which you can find on your bill – to hand to give the new supplier.
- Your postcode
- Name of your existing supplier
- Name of your existing deal and how much you pay
- An up-to-date meter reading
It will then notify your current supplier and begin the switch.
But comparison site Energy Helpline says households can save up to £279 by switching to a fixed-rate tariff.
The best value fixed deal currently available on the market is £859 a year from Neo Energy.
Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that the actual price you pay on a fixed-rate tariff will depend on how much energy you use.
This is because these types of tariff set the cost you pay per kilowatt hour – the unit used to measure energy – usually for one year or more.
So your energy bills will still increase if you start to use more energy.
You also won’t benefit from any price cuts while on a fixed tariff, and you may be charged a cancellation fee if you want to leave early.
Payment meter customers have to pay a fee to change their meter for a standard one if they want to take advantage of the best deals.
However, many have no option but to continue to pay the price hikes because there is a charge to swap meters and renters will have to get permission from their landlords first.
Before you decide to switch, always check how your new energy firm rates in terms of customer service and reviews.
Tom Lyon, director of energy at Energy Helpline, said: “Competitive deals are unaffected, meaning switching tariff could now save you £279 on average.
“Customers stuck on default tariffs should switch now to lock in lower energy prices for the next 12 months or more.”
What to do if you can’t pay your bills
FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.
If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.
One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.
You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
Ofgem sets the price cap twice a year to limit how much suppliers can charge customers on standard variable tariffs, depending on wholesale prices.
The watchdog says it saves these households between £75 and £100 a year, but customers can cut bills even further by switching deals.
Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, admitted last month that the price rise will be challenging for some customers who may be struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
The Adjustment Allowance was introduced in 2020 as a one-off coronavirus measure so suppliers could support households through the pandemic.
Mr Brearley said: “As the UK still faces challenges around COVID-19, during this exceptional time I expect suppliers to set their prices competitively, treat all customers fairly and ensure that any household in financial distress is given access to the support they need.”
Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, also said the price hikes will come as a “heavy blow” to some households.
Around 3.7million households are living in fuel poverty, according to The End Fuel Poverty Coalition, with a further 2.1million behind on their bills.
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