Millions of British Gas customers face higher utility bills as the energy supplier confirms tariffs face a 7 per cent hike. A consumer groups tells Channel 4 News the rise will be met with "dismay".
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Around eight million British Gas customers will see a rise in household gas and electricity bills as tariffs increase by an average of 7 per cent from next month.
New rates will be introduced from 10 December which will amount to an increase of £1.50 on the average weekly dual-fuel bill. The increases apply to customers on standard and variable tariffs.
An average British Gas customer's dual-fuel bill will rise annually to £1,239 from £1,157.
We know that rising energy prices come at a difficult time for many in Britain. British Gas boss Phil Bentley
The company said rising wholesale prices had forced it to lift the bills, but vowed not to apply the increase to the company's 300,000 most vulnerable customers, such as the poorest pensioners. Customers identified as vulnerable will see bills held until April, the firm added.
The move follows a price lift by utility giant Scottish & Southern who are due to put up gas bills by 9 per cent from 1 December.
Industry regulator Ofgem recently warned that rising prices in the wholesale market - where suppliers buy their energy - could be passed on to the consumer.
Adam Scorer, Director of External Affairs at Consumer Focus told Channel 4 News the news would hit consumers hardest at the most difficult time of the year.
"Consumers must be looking at this kind of announcement with dismay," he said.
"Winter's setting in, it's getting cold, people are putting their heating on and that’s the time that British Gas chose to put up their prices.
"I think British gas have taken a snapshot of the wholesale market.
"When wholesale prices go up a little bit energy companies get very nervous and they are very quick to put their prices up.
"They're not so quick when wholesale prices have been down to reflect that on consumer bills."
British Gas, which is owned by Centrica, said it had witnessed a rise of more than 25 per cent in wholesale gas prices since the spring.
The utility firm said today's increase followed two years of price cuts, meaning its average dual-fuel bills were still lower than in January 2009.
British Gas managing director Phil Bentley said: "We know that rising energy prices come at a difficult time for many in Britain.
"That's why we are not raising prices for our vulnerable customers, such as the poorest pensioners, until after this winter."
Mr Bentley said customers could keep their bills down by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Some 1.6 million customers on fixed price deals will not be affected in any way, British Gas added.