Another 7.8 million households face surging energy bills after British Gas said it will hike electricity bills by 10.4 per cent and gas tariffs by 8.4 per cent in the latest blow to family finances.
The group is the second of the “big six” providers to announce price increases this month after SSE recently revealed more than seven million customers will be hit with an 8.2 per cent rise from November 15.
The move sees British Gas tear up a pledge made earlier this year to use an annual earnings windfall from the cold weather to keep a lid on tariffs. It blamed rising wholesale prices.
Prime Minister David Cameron branded the announcement “disappointing” and urged unhappy consumers to switch suppliers for the best deal. Rising energy bills will heap further pressure on the coalition Government ahead of the 2015 general election after Labour leader Ed Miliband’s bold announcement last month that the party would freeze gas and electricity prices for 20 months if it was voted into power.
According to Ofgem usage figures, British Gas dual-fuel customers will see their average annual bill rise by £123 to £1,444 after the price increases, which take effect on November 23.
But regional variations in prices mean some customers will see their bills top £1,500 a year, with average prices rising by as much as 11.2 per cent for some Scottish customers, while those in London will suffer a 10.6 per cent increase and households in Yorkshire will have a 10.5 per cent lift.
Consumer groups warned that other providers would follow suit with more price rises, leaving some households to choose between “heating and eating”.
Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com said: “This price hike round is big, and is nasty. It also means that two of the big six sheep have bleated, the rest are likely to follow within the next six weeks, leaving millions more homes already under the cosh having to choose between heating and eating.”
Mr Cameron insisted the Government was doing what it could.
He said: “We are intervening because we are legislating to say these companies have to put their customers on to the lowest tariff. But there is something everyone can do, which is look to switch from one supplier to another.”