SCOTTISHPOWER has announced plans to increase its prices by an average of seven per cent – just days after Scottish Gas and NPower announced rises.
The increases will affect 2.3 million households, while 700,000 customers whose bills are capped will not be affected.
The rise in price was condemned by consumer groups, who said this would lead to many more people struggling to heat their homes this winter.
People who pay by direct debit face the biggest rise, with an increase of 8.7 per cent, bringing the average annual bill to £1,271.
Prepayment customers will see a rise of 8.6 per cent, taking average combined bills to £1,349, while quarterly cash or cheque customers will see prices rise by 1.4 per cent taking their average bills to £1,368.
Neil Clitheroe, ScottishPower’s CEO of retail and generation, said: “We work hard to protect our customers and we regret that we’ve had to announce a price increase today. We reduced our gas prices in February but for most of the year we have been absorbing increased costs, especially for transporting gas and electricity to our customers’ homes and the cost of delivering energy efficiency programmes.”
However, consumer organisations said something should be done to protect customers from soaring energy bills.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s disappointing to see ScottishPower jumping on the energy price hike bandwagon and hitting hard-pressed customers just before winter sets in.
“We’ve seen this herd-like behaviour time after time. Competition doesn’t appear to be keeping the companies in check and ensuring consumers get a fair deal. If the regulator won’t fix this then the government must step in.”
Labour’s shadow energy minister, Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Tom Greatrex, said: “It’s not good enough for out-of- touch ministers to tell people to shop around. We need to break the dominance of the energy giants, simplify tariffs, and protect vulnerable customers from being ripped off.
And the MP added: “Unless ministers get to grips with spiralling energy bills, people will rightly think that this government is completely out of touch with families and pensioners struggling to make ends meet.”
Trisha McAuley, deputy director at Consumer Focus Scotland said: “The volley of price hikes all coming in during the winter period will fuel consumer
concerns about the energy market.
“Every time this happens it makes it difficult for people in Scotland to believe that price rises are driven by real supply and demand issues. ”
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “Consumers will be disappointed and angry that these increases will be hitting them in the winter when the blow will be felt hardest.”