Working from home: Expert explains how to claim for energy bills
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Campaigners say the energy price cap could jump this week, increasing pressure on hard-pressed households who are already struggling with their bills and continued coronavirus related difficulties.
Ofgem, the energy regulator for Great Britain, has already lifted the price cap once this year, announcing an increase of £96 to £1,138 in April, affecting 11 million default tariff customers.
A further increase could push bills towards £1,250 for a typical dual-fuel customer once it comes into force on October 1.
Millions fear that an increase of more than £10 a month could force them into debt, as one in five are already struggling to pay bills.
Comparethemarket.com warned energy suppliers have already slashed savings available to households switching energy suppliers by £180 since the start of July 2020, as the new price cap level is expected to rise for millions of households.
Ofgem is set to raise the price cap this week (Image: GETTY/PA IMAGES )
This increase comes as energy deals reached the highest cost for more than two years.
The average price for one of the cheapest deals on the market, according to comparethemarket.com’s research, is currently £996, the highest point seen since February 2019.
The price cap, which was introduced in 2019 to stop providers overcharging households who do not switch every year, is estimated to rise across the UK.
This is due in part to an increase in wholesale energy prices but also the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The rise couldn’t come at a worse time for households with children, with separate research from comparethemarket.com finding nearly three in ten (28 percent) of families with children at home struggled to pay their bills in the past week, compared with 15 percent of those without children at home.
Alex Hasty, an energy expert at comparethemarket.com, commented: “A further increase to the energy price cap will see energy costs shoot up for millions of households.
“While suppliers have been increasing prices across the board, it still remains significantly cheaper to switch to a competitive tariff.
“It should act as a useful reminder that the price cap is not there to serve as protection from hefty price increases and households should be alert to price changes when they take effect. There is plenty of time for those households that might be impacted to take action and save themselves from paying considerably more than they need to for their energy.”
Families have already been hit by coronavirus (Image: EXPRESS)
Uswitch, the energy price comparison site, also warned a mere £10 a month increase in energy bills could push seven million households into debt.
According to recent research from the company, over a quarter (27 percent ) of bill-payers say an increase of more than £10 a month in their energy bills could force them into debt.
The same research showed these households are already struggling to keep up, with almost a fifth (17 percent) struggling to pay for their energy over the past 12 months, and one in 10 (11 percent) households said they could not cope with any increase in bills.
Justina Miltienyte, an energy policy expert at Uswitch.com, issued a warning on the prospect of raised bills: “Many people are already in a risky position financially, and it’s worrying that an increase of £10 per month in energy bills could push a quarter of households into debt.
“Unfortunately those very circumstances are likely to happen this week as Ofgem announces the increase in the default tariff price cap.
“People on SVTs will be directly affected by any increase in the price cap but it is possible to get protection from this market volatility and reduce your bills, by switching to a cheaper fixed deal.”
In February, Ofgem announced that from April 1, 2021, the price cap would return to pre-pandemic levels, principally as a result of changes in wholesale energy prices.
As wholesale prices fell in the wake of the first lockdown, the level of the price cap fell by £84 in October 2020.
As demand recovered, the cap was raised but Ofgem noted that it continues to save customers up to £100 a year and they could save up to £150 more by switching tariffs.
The price cap increased by £96 to £1,138 for 11 million default tariff customers, and by £87 to £1,156 for four million prepayment meter customers.
The price cap ensures energy prices for customers who don’t shop around and get stuck on their supplier’s basic default energy tariff are far and cost-reflective.
It is Ofgems’s role to set the levels of the price cap and the Government has given the regulator special duties to do so.