April Price Cap Comes Into Effect
The new price cap from Ofgem has now come into effect and customers who have been on variable tariff will see a 54% rise in their energy bills. Read on to find out how the rise will affect you and what you can do to beat it.
The UK energy regulator Ofgem announced in February 2022 that it will raise the energy price cap to record heights in order to combat the fallout from the ongoing energy crisis. The price cap is set to come into effect from 1 April 2022 and will affect around 22 million customers who are on standard variable or default tariffs.
How Much Is the Price Cap Rising?
The price cap is set to be rising around 54% allowing suppliers to charge more for their electricity and gas tariffs. The price cap affects direct debit and prepayment customers differently, so here’s a table that shows the increases from 1 April:
|Payment Method||Price Cap Oct 2021||Price Cap April 2022|
|Direct Debit||£1,277||£1,971 (+£694)|
What Is the Price Cap?
The price cap is a mechanism that prevents energy suppliers from raising their prices beyond a certain average yearly amount. It was originally brought in in 2019 to protect customers on variable tariffs who were often misquoted when they renewed their energy contracts.
What Prices Are Suppliers Now Offering?
Energy suppliers have already confirmed what their tariffs will look like with the new price cap. Most of the larger suppliers are offering the same amount but a couple are charging just below the cap:
|E.ON / E.ON Next||£1,971||£2,017|
|Outfox The Market||£1,971||N/A|
Source: Money Saving Expert
Octopus Energy is not charging the full price cap and is offering two different rates depending on your situation. This means that how much you will pay will depend on whether you’re on a fixed tariff and when that tariff ends:
|Payment Method||Already on Flexible Octopus||Fixed Tariff Ends after 1 April|
What Help Is There?
Understandably, many customers are worried about the price cap rising, especially since the cost of living is also increasing. There are support programmes available for those customers who will struggle with the new rise in prices, as well as government support.
How Is the Government Helping?
The government has announced several measures in order to help energy customers with the rising prices. As part of offsetting the annual cost, the government announced financial aid of up to £350 which includes:
- A £200 discount off your energy bills this Autumn direct from the government.
- A £150 Council Tax Rebate for households liable for the Council Tax in Bands A-D.
The £200 discount will pay back automatically over the course of 5 years starting from the financial year 2023-2024 when wholesale gas prices are due to fall.
For those households who are not eligible for the Council Tax Rebate, an additional £144 million of funding for local authorities to help support those households not eligible for the Council Tax Rebate.
What Other Government Schemes Are Available?
There are a number of government schemes available to help customers with their bills, such as the Warm Home Discount, Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment. In direct response to the rise in the price cap, the Warm Home Discount has been increased to £150 and the eligibility criteria will be extended to benefit up to 3 million households.
Do Energy Suppliers Offer Grants?
Some energy suppliers offer grants to help customers who are in debt. Customers need to apply directly via their supplier and have to qualify based on certain criteria which may differ depending on the supplier. If your supplier does not offer a grant, you can apply with the British Gas Energy Trust as you do not need to be a British Gas customer to qualify.
What Is the Debt Respite Scheme?
The Debt Respite Scheme (sometimes called the breathing space scheme) is a government scheme that gives those who qualify a 60 day lull where debt collection cannot take action, allowing customers to get on top of their debts. If you have debt with your supplier, you need to apply through a debt advisor.
What Is the Fuel Direct Scheme?
If you receive benefits and are having difficulties paying your bills, you can arrange for your bills to be paid directly out of your benefit payments with the Fuel Direct scheme. You need to apply through your council and they will need:
- Details of who you owe and how much
- Your customer reference number with your supplier
- You National Insurance number
What Is the Priority Services Register?
The Priority Services Register is a free service that has to be offered by energy companies to vulnerable customers. Although they will not help with your bills, they can still offer additional support during a difficult period.
If your meter is not easy to access, with the Priority Services Register you can have someone come out to read your meter for you or get a smart meter installed, that way you will be sure that you are not being charged based on estimates and are only paying for the energy you have used.
What Else Can I Do?
You cannot change how much energy is going to cost at the moment, but there are a few things that you can do to help lower your bill.
- Use less energy. It may seem obvious but reducing how much energy you use will directly impact your bill.
- Make your home more energy efficient. There are grants available under the Energy Company Obligation scheme that can help certain people replace an old boiler or get free insulation.
- Make sure your bill is accurate. Giving frequent meter readings to your energy supplier will ensure that you are not being under or overcharged for your energy.
- Getting a smart meter installed. If you do not have one, ask to have one fitted. All energy suppliers have to offer them to customers who do not have one at no additional charge. With a smart meter, your supplier will be able to take meter readings directly from the meter making sure you are receiving an accurate bill.
- Paying by Direct Debit. Customers who pay by direct debit are charged slightly less than customers on other forms of payment (bills, prepayment meters). If you have a smart meter and are currently paying via top-up, you have the option to change the meter to credit mode, which will allow you to change your payment method to direct debit.