Energy bills to jump £171 for half a million households unless they switch now

NEARLY half a million households will soon see their energy bills jump by an average of £171 a year unless they switch now.

Some 492,625 customers will be moved to their suppliers' so-called standard variable tariff by the end of January as 68 fixed-term deals come to an end.

The default tariffs could potentially cost customers an extra £84million over the course of the year, according to price comparison website uSwitch.

The fixed-term deals coming to an end are with major suppliers including British Gas and EDF as well as smaller ones such as Tonik Energy.

If you have a fixed-term deal and you think you're affected, it's important to check when it comes to an end.

How much your energy bills will rise by depends on who your energy supplier is, but you can avoid the hike by switching tariff.

Currently, there is a £154 difference between the cheapest deals on the market and the default energy price cap of £1,042 a year.

Meanwhile, bills for prepayment meter customers are currently capped at £1,070 a year.

The cheapest deal on the market is a 12-month fix offered by Simplicity Energy, setting you back £888 for the average usage.

We've rounded up the ten cheapest deals above. The top eight are fixed for 12 months, while the remaining two are variable.

Regulator Ofgem has proposed a £21 increase to the default energy price cap from April.

This would see the maximum amount suppliers can charge customers on standard variable tariffs increased.

The price hike warning comes as experts also say working from home due to the pandemic could add £45 a month to energy bills.

Energy suppliers haven't offered industry-wide payment holidays like mortgage and credit card providers have.

But some suppliers will allow customers to pause their bills or arrange repayment plans so it's worth getting in touch if you're struggling.

Sarah Broomfield, uSwitch’s energy expert, said: "With the majority of the country spending more time at home during this national lockdown, combined with the cold weather, we will be using much more energy to keep ourselves warm.

“People often use January as a prime time to detox their finances, and it means that many fixed deals taken out this time last year are about to come to an end.

"Anyone who does not act now will automatically move onto their supplier’s standard variable tariff.”

What to do if you can’t pay your bills

FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.

If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.

Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.

One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.

You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)

If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.

In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

We explain how to get help paying your energy bills as temperatures drop – and save over £1,000.

From drapes to bubble wrap — keep your home warm on the cheap with our top tips.

Plus, the Energy Saving Trust website also has detailed information on how to save energy at home.

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