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ScottishPower has become the latest of the “big six” utility companies to raise its prices, in a move that will likely bolster calls for further government intervention in the UK retail energy market.
The Spanish-owned company is raising electricity prices for customers on its standard tariff by an average of nearly 11 per cent, while gas prices will rise by 4.7 per cent. Customers who buy both their gas and electricity from the company will have to shoulder an average increase of 7.8 per cent.
ScottishPower blamed the increase on rising wholesale prices as well as “compulsory non-energy costs” and insisted that the majority of its customers – two out of three homes – will not be affected by the changes as they are on other deals, such as fixed rate tariffs.
The move will likely spark further outcry over the rising cost of household energy bills. Three out of the so-called big six utility companies have raised their prices so far this year and others are expected to follow suit, despite the head of Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator, saying last month that there was no “obvious” reason why companies should be passing further costs on to households. However, British Gas-owner Centrica said on Friday it would extend a price freeze for customers on its standard energy tariff – 5m households* – until August.
Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, has said most of the big energy providers have hedging strategies that protect them from rising wholesale costs.
ScottishPower’s decision follows an announcement by Npower last week that bills for dual fuel customers on a standard tariff would rise by nearly 10 per cent, or £109. EDF Energy is also raising its standard electricity rates from March.
From April, prices for customers who use a prepayment meter to settle their electricity and gas bills will be capped but consumer groups such as Citizens Advice want the government to take further action to protect households on other rates.
The prepayment limit was one of the recommendations by the Competition and Markets Authority last year following a two-year probe into the energy market. However, the watchdog stopped short of a wider cap on prices.
*This post has been amended to correct the number of households that will be impacted.