THE big six energy companies – under fire after a series of price hikes – are backing a Citizen’s Advice Scotland campaign to ensure customers are on the best tariffs.
Scottish Gas have raised dual-energy bills by 6 per cent, Scottish Power by 8.7 per cent, while Npower gas prices went up by 8.8 per cent and electricity by 9.1 per cent.
The companies have faced criticism from campaign groups and politicians, amid fears struggling families will be pushed into fuel poverty this winter as a result.
Campaigners said the companies’ support for the week-long drive was “ironic”. British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Scottish Power are all supporting Citizens Advice’s Big Energy Saving Week.
The event will see the companies offer advice they say will help householders manage their energy bills and urge people to take action, such as making sure they have insulation, to help keep their homes warm.
They will attend more than 400 events across the UK during the awareness-raising week, which is run in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust, the UK government, Ofgem and various consumer groups.
The Scottish Pensioners’ Forum said the drive was “way too little, way too late”.
Kathy Leech, the forum’s chairwoman, said: “This is ironic and a total sham. How can these companies take so much with one hand and give so little away with the other.
“There are people up and down Scotland who are already petrified about the colder days and already wondering how they are going to be able to pay their next heating bills.
“For many it will be a choice between heating or eating. There is nothing a drive like this can do to make these people’s fears go. The people working for these companies need to step into the real world. Pretending to care about your customers when you are making huge profits and still putting up prices fools no-one.”
Angela Knight, chief executive at Energy UK, which is an organisation of more than 70 gas and electricity suppliers, said: “Making people aware of the help available to them is important.
“Energy companies recognise that the cost of gas and electricity, as well as a whole range of other household bills, is a real concern for many people in these difficult financial times.
“So, as winter approaches, anyone who is worried about paying their fuel bills should call their energy supplier in the first instance.”
She said the event will see the big six energy companies spend around £275 million on a range of initiatives to help vulnerable customers, including elderly homeowners and people on benefits.
The help on offer includes free or heavily subsidised wall and loft insulation, as well as funding for a “Home Heat Helpline”, providing free and independent advice on managing energy bills.
The money-saving drive comes just two days after energy regulator Ofgem unveiled plans to ensure customers are offered the cheapest deals by suppliers.
It said it wanted a “simpler, clearer, fairer” market, under reforms that will force firms to tell customers about their best electricity and gas deals and cut the number of core tariffs to four per fuel type.