by Tina Charon
One of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers announced yesterday a 9.4% hike in gas prices from the 1st of December. According to Ofgem’s standard consumption measure, the price rise would be a £5.60 a month, or £67 a year.This will affect 3.6 million customers, including more than 350 000 in Scotland.
The price is due to take place in December, one of the most expensive month of the year. But SSE explains that wholesale gas prices have risen up to 25% over the past months. “The last few months have been marked by rising wholesale gas prices and, having absorbed losses in our gas supply business for some time, we can not delay an increase in retail prices any longer,” says Alistair Phillips-Davies, of SSE, “I am sorry it will take effect during the winter period.”
The deputy director of Consumer Focus Scotland Trisha McAuley, is worried about the repercussions on the customers.“SSE’s announcement of an increase in gas prices at the start of winter is the last thing its customers need. We are worried that this could be the start of some serious bad news for all consumers”. She explains that energy suppliers should have reduced prices when wholesale cost were low.
SSE is actually the first of the “big six” energy suppliers to announce hikes in bills since 2008. For the time being, the other companies haven’t announced whether or not they would also put up prices. But industry watchers still want to warn customers, since the hikes could spread to the whole sector. “While we hope that other companies do not follow suit, history has shown us they adopt a pack mentality on pricing,” said Audrey Gallacher, of watchdog Consumer Focus.
Customers are given advice to help reducing the price of the bills. They should for example assess whether or not they are getting the best deal for their house, or if they should change supplier and tariff.