The harsh winter, extending into a cold spring, plus price rises expected in the autumn could push the average annual dual fuel bill up by 10 per cent to £1,600.
The warning comes as the energy giants write to customers who pay by direct debit to tell them they face big increases in their monthly payments to recoup costs for “exceptional” use over the past few months.
Mark Todd, the founder of energyhelpline.com, hit out at the “cruel reality that customers are paying more and more as the companies make more profits”.
He said industry rumours suggest the big six suppliers – E.ON, British Gas, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – will increase prices by five to 10 per cent by the end of the year. He said: “Customers have already been hit by a double whammy of price rises last year followed by the long winter which pushed up energy usage. The average annual bill is expected to hit £1,495 with this extra cost. If, as we suspect, they hike prices again in the autumn, this could add another £100.”
On the question of increased direct debit payments Marc Gander, founder of the Consumer Action Group, said: “I am amazed they can just get away with it.”
He and other experts said millions of trusting customers – many still in credit – will hand over larger monthly payments without realising they are entitled to refuse changes to their direct debits.
The direct debit increase comes just days after British Gas vowed to use profits from increased winter usage to halt price rises “for as long as possible”.
Now it says the increase is necessary to cover the extra heating costs built up by customers over an unusually extended period of cold weather.