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15 September: the most expensive day of the year for energy customers

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Bills for the 3.1 million people on a British Gas standard variable tariff will shoot up on Friday, as the latest price rise comes into force.

The 12.5% electricity price rise is set to cost British Gas customers an extra £235m per year, according to data from MoneySuperMarket.

Switching levels are at record highs. Figures from energy regulator Ofgem earlier this year showed the average number of monthly switches was more than 400,000 in 2016, 4.8 million for the full year. This is up from 3.8 million in 2015 and 3.5 million in 2013.

However, around 70% of UK households are still using standard variable tariffs from the ‘Big Six’ providers (British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE), which are often the most expensive.

MoneySuperMarket suggests the average UK household could save £319 by switching provider this winter. The average annual cost of a standard variable tariff with a Big Six provider is £1,151, while the average cost of the top 20 tariffs on the market is £855.

Data from the Utilities Tracker Wave 7 report by YouGov found that 44% of consumers said they are unlikely to switch utilities provider in the next 12 months. Of this group, one in five (19%) think that any savings they make from changing supplier “aren’t really worth the hassle”, while 28% don’t believe switching provider would cut their bills.

‘Consumers need to take matters into their own hands’

Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “The British Gas price increase is the latest in a long line of blows to consumers who languish on standard variable tariffs and these customers will continue to be impacted by price increases unless they move to a competitive, fixed rate tariff. During 2017 all of the Big Six energy suppliers have increased their prices – so it’s no wonder households are getting frustrated.

“As we approach winter, consumers need to take matters into their own hands and switch their energy supplier immediately. Savings are huge if they do – by switching to a competitive, fixed rate tariff, households could save over £300 a year.”

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