Beat the £630 million hike in energy bills

Britain's biggest energy suppliers have hiked prices yet again, adding an incredible £630 million to the annual bills paid by British families, according to new research from price comparison website uSwitch.

Cash-strapped consumers are now paying £313 a year, or 38%, more for their energy than at the beginning of 2008 as a result. Meanwhile, the firms are raking it in, with British Gas recently revealing a 24% increase in residential profits after hiking prices in December 2010.

The average household energy bill rocketed by 41% or £334 from £819 to £1,153 in 2008. Subsequent price cuts saw it drop by 7.3% or £84 to £1,069.

However, these latest hikes now see it hitting £1,132 again, with Britain's big six energy suppliers pushing prices up by an average of 5.6%, or £35, for gas and 6.4%, or £28, for electricity. A typical annual bill has shot up by £63, or 5.9%, as a result, with huge numbers of households affected.

The final supplier to make the move, EDF Energy, sees its hike come into effect today, by which time almost 28 million customers will have been affected by the latest round of price rises.

Ann Robinson at uSwitch said: "March marks the end of a round of energy price hikes that brought misery to British households this winter. EDF Energy is the last of our big six suppliers to increase its prices, but at least by holding off until March it protected its customers through the coldest months. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of its rivals."

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How to beat the hikes
Higher energy prices are clearly a worrying prospect for the millions of families struggling to cope financially due to Government spending cuts and rising inflation.

But with £316 difference between the cheapest and most expensive energy plan in the market, shopping around to ensure you get the best possible deal can help you to cut your bills back down to size again. In fact, consumers have a golden opportunity to take their household energy prices back to 2008 levels just by ditching old fashioned and expensive standard tariffs for a competitive online energy deal.

Robinson said: "This winter's price hikes have opened up an opportunity for consumers to turn the clock back on their energy bills and take them back to 2008 levels. The difference between the cheapest and most expensive plan in the market is now £316, and I would therefore urge anyone who hasn't yet ditched their old fashioned and expensive standard tariff to move to a competitive online plan instead.

"In a time of rising prices our best defence is to use less energy and to pay the lowest possible price for what we do use."

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