Around 11m UK households will see their annual energy bills rise by an average of £117 from April after Ofgem announced an increase in its energy price cap.
The cap was introduced in January with the aim of preventing customers on poor value tariffs from paying too much for their energy. Most of these people are on default variable tariffs which customers are usually automatically rolled onto once a fixed rate plan has finished.
The energy regulator blamed rising wholesale energy costs for the increase this April, which will see prices capped at £1,254, compared to the £1,137 currently.
A further 4m people on pre-payment meters will see their bills rise by £106 a year to £1,242. According to switching service Look After My Bills, the rise in the price cap will see a total of £1.71 billion added to household bills.
Prepare for higher prices
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Many commentators predict that energy providers are likely to raise their prices to just below the new cap, so it’s a good idea to shop around and take advantage of competitive energy deals while they are still available. E.ON has already announced a price hike, and will increase its gas and electricity prices by 10% for 1.8m customers on its standard variable tariff from April 1.
Victoria Arrington, spokesman for energy comparison site energyhelpline, said: “We expect that more suppliers will raise their standard tariffs in line with the price cap leading to a big wave of price rises announced this month that come into effect in April.
“Fortunately, people can take matters into their own hands and seek out the best possible deals – they could still save an extra £300 per year by switching suppliers once the price cap goes up on April 1. With over 70 suppliers active in the UK, customers have the power to vote with their feet and get a better deal.”
How to switch
The best energy tariff for you will depend on where you live and how much energy you use.
You can compare tariffs and switch using energy comparison sites. Dig out a copy of your latest bill before you start as this will tell you how much you’re currently paying for your gas and electricity.
Bear in mind that often some of the cheapest tariffs are available through collective energy switching schemes, whereby you join forces with other people to negotiate a group deal.
Once you’ve selected a new tariff, it should only take around 21 days for the switch to take place, which includes a cooling off period.
Before you switch, check with your existing energy supplier to see if you owe them any money. If you do, you’ll usually have to pay this off before you can switch to a different provider. If you’ve paid by direct debit, you may find that your energy supplier owes you money, in which case you should claim this back by contacting them and giving them an up to date meter reading.