The websites of some of Britain’s biggest energy companies crashed on Thursday as consumers worried about the escalating cost of living crisis rushed to submit gas and electricity bills ahead of a 54-year hike % of prices from April 1st.
Consumer champions, including Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert website, have been advise households to submit their meter readings before Britain’s ‘energy price cap’ rises by almost £700 to £1,971 a year on average on Friday. The cap dictates the bills of the 22 million households that are not on fixed price energy deals.
But the websites and phone lines of some of the country’s biggest energy suppliers, including British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon and ScottishPower, were unable to cope with the increased traffic during this which had been dubbed “National Meter Reading Day”, drawing criticism from consumer groups. that the companies knew that many households would need advice.
“Energy companies should have been prepared for more customers to contact them and should support any customers trying to submit their meter readings today,” said Adam French, editor of consumer rights. consumers at Which?, the consumer group.
Greg Jackson, chief executive of Octopus Energy, Britain’s fifth-largest energy provider, tweeted that his company had 2,500 calls waiting just before lunchtime on Thursday, compared to 150 on a “normal busy day”. But Jackson insisted customers had five days to submit their readings.
Justina Miltienyte, policy manager at price comparison site Uswitch.com, said vendor website issues are often temporary, so consumers should try again later. In the meantime, they should take a photo of their readings “with a date stamp visible on the image as proof,” Miltienyte said.
Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of Energy UK, a trade body for suppliers, noted the panic proved how “scary these price hikes are” for households, not just low-income people, and that “more needs to be done” to help protect consumers from high oil prices petrol. Prices were high even before Russia’s assault on Ukraine, but volatility in commodity markets has since increased.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £9billion package in February to help tackle the cost of living crisis. This included a council tax rebate of £150, to be paid in April, for every property in England in bands A to D and a loan of £200 to be applied against all electricity bills in October.
But the measures have been deemed inadequate by opposition politicians and consumer groups, especially as the price cap is expected to rise sharply again in October.
The UK’s budget watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, said last week that it expected the cap to rise to more than £2,800 per year per household in October based on average use, although some analysts are predicting it to top £3,000.
National Energy Action, a charity, said it believed 6.5 million households in Britain were living in “fuel poverty”, up from a previous estimate of 4 million in early October. If the price cap reaches £3,000 a year in October, the NEA has warned that up to 8.5 million households will be unable to pay their energy and heating bills.
“This is the biggest energy price shock in living memory.,said Adam Scorer, chief executive of the charity National Energy Action.