NPOWER has become the latest energy giant to raise gas and electricity prices, triggering fears that more households will be plunged into a “long, cold winter”.
• 6 % Scottish Gas increase will come into effect next month
• npower prices will increase by an average of 8.8% for gas and 9.1% for electricity from next month also
• Annual dual fuel bill for British Gas customers with average consumption will increase by around £80 to £1,238
• Profits up at Centrica-owned firm by 23% this year
Scottish Gas put an extra £80 on to its typical annual dual-fuel bill with an average increase of 6 per cent, affecting 1.5 million customers north of the Border, from 16 November.
Npower followed with an average rise of 8.8 per cent for gas and 9.1 per cent for electricity.
Both companies blamed rising costs largely outside their control, but with food and some mortgage costs also on an upward path, there were fears about how the elderly and hard-up will cope with the latest rises.
The pre-winter move from Centrica, parent company of British Gas and Scottish Gas, comes months after it posted a 23 per cent rise in half-year profits at its residential arm to £345 million. It has been criticised by consumer groups, unions and politicians.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “These latest energy price rises will have an extremely damaging effect on the finances of Scottish households.
“I want to meet all the energy companies as soon as possible to discuss price rises. For every 5 per cent price increase in energy prices, 46,000 households are pushed into fuel poverty.
“Not only is this completely unacceptable in an energy-rich country like Scotland, it also risks undoing the good work that the Scottish Government is doing to tackle fuel poverty.”
Trisha McAuley, deputy director at Consumer Focus Scotland, said: “Two price hikes on the same day will just reinforce the views and prejudices of consumers – whether justified or not – about a lack of transparency and competitiveness in the market. People are not convinced that they are getting a fair deal.
“Unless they can be reassured about the relationship between costs, prices and profits, consumer distrust will continue, companies won’t get their message across and the success of the regulator will be questioned.”
Unite general-secretary Len McCluskey added: “With winter approaching, low-waged people will now be terrified about how they are going to find another £80. Money from the poor is going to the pockets of Centrica shareholders. This is further shameful abuse by out-of-control, greedy fuel companies sitting on piles of profit.”
The rise from Npower comes into force on 26 November and, according to Consumer Focus, will result in a typical dual-fuel customer paying £1,252 by monthly direct debit.
The figure for cash or cheque is £1,357. The supplier has 6.5 million residential gas and electricity accounts.
SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, has already said it will increase tariffs by 9 per cent on average on Monday, hitting about five million electricity and 3.4 million gas customers.