Energy firm EDF today announced a 15.4% jump in gas tariffs as it became the last of the major suppliers to put up prices.
Average electricity tariffs will also rise by 4.5% in changes that will come into effect on November 10 and reflect rising wholesale energy, network and other costs.
EDF’s decision means that all of the big six power suppliers have now raised their tariffs for the coming winter.
Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, said it had been able to delay the decision longer than its rivals because of its sourcing of nuclear energy, but added that it must “reluctantly” now pass some of these higher costs through to consumers.
EDF said the higher charges will add about 33p a day to a dual-fuel bill, while the annual cost of a standard dual-fuel bill paid for by direct debit will rise to £1,165 against £1,051 previously.
The firm added that even with higher charges it will be the cheapest major supplier of dual fuel and claimed that by delaying its increase by three months customers could have saved £30 compared to Scottish Power, the first of the big six to raise tariffs this year.
Mr Rivaz added: ‘Unlike some other suppliers we have been able to give protection to our customers, particularly for their electricity consumption, because of our choice to invest in low carbon nuclear generation, which enjoys stable costs compared to gas and coal and has had a strong performance this year.’
Mr Rivaz also said EDF would welcome a Competition Commission inquiry if it helped clear up some of the ‘widespread lack of understanding and suspicion of the industry as a whole, among the public, customers in general, politicians, regulators and others’.
He added: ‘If a Competition Commission inquiry is necessary to build this trust, then it is a step that should be taken. We would welcome the opportunity to explore all the issues fully and openly. As a fair company, we have nothing to hide.’
Mike O’Connor chief executive of watchdog Consumer Focus, said: ‘The fact that EDF Energy has made smaller and later hikes than other suppliers is welcome, but it won’t soften the blow on those who are struggling on tight household budgets.’
He did welcome, however, EDF’s acknowledgement of public distrust of energy firms and welcomed its willingness to face a Competition Commission inquiry.
Regulator Ofgem wants the suppliers to simplify tariffs and to auction up to 20% of their power generation to make it easier for new competitors to enter the market.
‘If energy companies try to frustrate these reforms Ofgem has made it clear we will refer the issue to the Competition Commission,’ an Ofgem spokesman said.
Rising utility bills helped push consumer price inflation up to 4.5% in August and are forecast to send it higher over the next two months as all of the recently announced increases kick in.
Scottish Power put its gas tariffs up by 19% and its electricity charges by 10% from August 1, while British Gas increased gas bills by 18% and electricity by 16% from August 18.
This week, Scottish and Southern Energy raised electricity by 11% and gas by 18% while E.ON increased its electricity prices by 11.4% and gas by 18.1%.
On October 1, Npower is raising gas prices by 15.7% and electricity by 7.2%.
According to Consumer Focus, EDF will be cheapest dual-fuel supplier when paying by direct debit once all of the increases go through. Next cheapest is Npower at £1,184, with British Gas the most expensive at £1,219.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said he was focused on boosting competition to help keep prices down, as well as on insisting that energy companies insulate millions of homes by next year.
He added: ‘I want to see greater protection for consumers and I want to put small companies on an equal footing with the bigger players in the energy sector.
‘The coalition Government is bringing about greater openness in energy markets and will strengthen competition - that’s good news for both business and consumers.’