Energy customers in the UK have expressed shock after their offtake charges more than doubled following rising price caps and rising costs of living.
One charity worker described feeling “shocked and overwhelmed” when she the bill has gone up from £59 to £145 last month.
At the end of April, Sophie Hughes, 31, said she was stunned when her provider E.ON Next informed her of the increase in her monthly payments.
She said I“I expected it to go up, but it had gone up by 124%. I was paying £59 a month for gas and electricity and it was rising to £145 a month.
“I was really upset by that. It was a really shocking increase.
The charity fundraiser, who lives alone in a small terraced house near Cardiff, managed to negotiate with the company down to a monthly payment of £110 a month, which ‘still seems like a lot’ to pay for her – same.
She said that means she has had to cancel her gym membership and will now travel by train rather than car to work.
Ms Hughes added: ‘I can’t imagine how absurd it will be by October.
Ofgem, the energy regulator, has given some energy suppliers three weeks to respond to accusations they have increased direct debits from customers more than necessary.
It comes after the energy price cap, set by regulator Ofgem, rose on April 1 by 54%, pushing up the cost of gas and electricity bills for everyone. This is on the back of a record rise in global gas prices over the past six months, with wholesale prices quadrupling in the past year.
Customers reported increases in their bills far beyond what they expected and the government stepped in and told some energy providers they had three weeks to explain or expose themselves to almonds. Ofgem and the government did not name the companies.
Andrew Walker, deputy head of a secondary school near Norwich, Norfolk, said his gas and electricity bill had risen from £73 a month to a suggested £237 a month after the new price cap in April.
He said I“Octopus suggested a direct debit payment of £237 per month. I chose to set it at £200 which was an option.
“For me it’s minimal pain right now because it’s summer, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this coming winter.”
When approached by I for comment, Octopus pointed out that customers are still in control of their direct debits and any changes are a suggestion to prevent them from going into debt.
Father-of-two Mr Walker, who lives in a three-bedroom house in Watton, said he calculated his usage was actually around £80 a month and so he was able to withdraw some payment he had made to Octopus Energy in his bank account.
“What little money I have, I prefer to have in my bank account or savings account,” he said.
But like Ms Hughes, he said the reality of new energy prices meant family luxuries would be the first to go to ensure they could pay the bills.
“The pain will probably come for us in October with the new price cap,” he added.
Adam Scorer, chief executive of the charity National Energy Actionsaid: “In April the price cap increased by an average of 54%, bringing the average direct debit bill from around £1,200 a year to almost £2,000.
“For most this makes it difficult to pay for energy, but for 6.5million UK households it means energy poverty. It’s a choice between heating and eating.
“That means having cold, potentially less nutritious foods. This means having fewer showers.
“And that means a huge impact on physical and mental health.”
He said there were few options for help other than the government’s £150 rebate and £200 loan in October.
“None of these measures help people in fuel poverty,” he added. “Until the government steps in and helps those who need it most, the situation will only get worse.”
The charity recommends customers contact their energy supplier if they are vulnerable to ask to be added to the priority service register.
Ofgem said it was undertaking a number of reviews over the next few months to ensure providers meet license requirements in key areas of provider service, starting with direct debits.
A spokesperson for the regulator said I“Our top priority is to protect consumers and we recently wrote to suppliers alerting them that we are commissioning a series of market compliance reviews to ensure, among other things, that they are treating direct debits fairly and that , overall, they are held to higher standards of performance in customer service and protection of vulnerable customers.
A spokesperson for Octopus Energy said: “Customers are always in control of their direct debits with Octopus. We give 14 days notice of any suggested changes, and we only suggest changes to ensure customers pay for what they use during the year and don’t unexpectedly go into debt.
“Customers can change their direct debit at any time in their online account or app, or by speaking to one of our teams, and refund any accumulated credit. However, we will also suggest reducing a direct debit if we think that a customer accumulates too much credit.
E.ON said global gas prices had “skyrocketed over the past six months” and this had affected the energy costs paid by suppliers.
The company spokesperson said: “Our prices have increased in line with Ofgem’s price cap to reflect the true cost of wholesale energy around the world at this time.
“We know this is difficult for our customers and we urge anyone who is struggling to contact us as there are ways we can help including cold weather payments and targeted support, such as through our energy fund. »