E.ON has become the latest of the Big Six energy providers to announce that it's raising prices, and much like previous announcements, it's been widely criticised. But is there anything you can do about it?
The supplier announced yesterday that it will be raising its variable rate prices, which means standard dual fuel customers will see an average price increase of 8.8%, while gas-only customers will see their bills increase by an average of 3.8%, and electricity customers will see a whopping 13.8% increase to their bills.
The changes will come into effect on 26 April, and while that means that there's plenty of time to switch to a better deal, the fact that prices have risen so much to begin with will no doubt come as a shock to customers. Indeed, typical dual fuel customers who pay by direct debit could see their bills rise by an average of £97 a year – customers will be written to individually to explain how the price change affects them – but it could be even higher for those who are electricity-only or who pay by other means.
E.ON is at pains to point out that it's only variable rate customers who will see a price rise, with those on fixed rate, prepayment or Smart Pay-As-You-Go tariffs unaffected. It says that it "isn't something we take lightly", pointing out that it's been three years since it last raised its standard prices, and attempted to explain its latest hike by blaming the cost of non-energy parts of the bill.
These non-energy costs, such as programmes to support renewable energy and help customers reduce their consumption, have risen by around 36%, says E.ON, and it's this which has given the supplier no choice but to raise its own prices. "We've held off increasing our prices for as long as we can," it said, "but we're no longer able to protect our customers from rises in the non-energy parts of the bill that we don't control."
"E.ON delivered yet another bitter blow to households this morning as it announced a monstrous price rise," said Mark Todd of energyhelpline. "This will be very tough for customers to swallow, and once again it's loyal standard rate customers who are hit the hardest.
"E.ON customers can expect an average standard tariff bill to rise to a whopping £1,154 a year for direct debit customers and £1,224 a year for pay on receipt. Among the Big Six, the 9% increase is second only to npower's 9.8% rise."
It only adds to the recent trend, too, with Mark pointing out that 16 UK energy suppliers have now announced hikes to their prices, and more are set to follow. "There is pretty much no escape from these hikes unless you get on a fixed rate energy tariff," he said.
"Customers shouldn't take these price rises lying down. Take a few minutes to compare and switch today. Move to a low cost fixed rate tariff and you can beat these price rises."
E.ON itself said that "one of the simplest ways to protect yourself from this price increase is to switch to a fixed tariff", adding that customers can choose an alternative any time before 25 May to be unaffected by the price hikes. Of course, it highlighted its own fixed rate deal in the process, but if you're an E.ON customer, you don't have to stay put. There are plenty of other suppliers and tariffs out there that could offer a far better deal – all it takes is a bit of research.
Start the process by using our energy comparison tool to find the available tariffs in your area. Don't worry if you spot a few lesser-known names in the mix – often, these smaller suppliers are able to offer far better deals, and they invariably come with better customer service ratings, too. It's little wonder that Ofgem, the energy regulator, has noted a sharp increase in the number of customers switching to independent suppliers, with the big names slowly but surely losing their market stronghold.
So what are you waiting for? Compare gas and electricity prices and switch to a fixed rate tariff, and hopefully you'll be able to avoid the latest round of price hikes.
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.