Unexpected consequences of the price cap

price rises

The energy price cap was first introduced as a way of protecting the most vulnerable customers from being ripped off. Far, far too many people have been overpaying for their energy bills (still an estimated 11 million) and no one is under any illusion that the energy market is fair to consumers.

The energy price cap limits the price a supplier can charge for their standard variable tariff. Unfortunately, it would appear that the price cap has had some unintended consequences.

Our research shows there have been a huge 42 price rises so far this year.

2018 was the worst year on record for price rises, with 57 in total. This time last year there had only been 15, meaning we are on course to beat last year’s record.

Price rise key figures201720182019 so far
Total number of price rises155742
Suppliers who raised prices143542
January – June price rises101542
Average price rise8675110
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Why is this significant?

42 price rises far exceeds the levels we were seeing back to 2013 onwards.

Higher than ever before

These are the highest price rises ever seen from the Big Six.

The Big Six still occupy a huge monopoly over the energy market, so an estimated 11 million households will feel the effects of these price rises.

SupplierBiggest price rise 2018Biggest price rise 2019
British Gas60117
Scottish Power63117

-These are individual price rises

The worst offenders

The worst price rises in fact come from the smaller suppliers. The biggest being a huge jump of £162 from Ebico and £144 from Tonik Energy. 

SupplierStandard Variable TariffPrevious cost (£)New cost (£)Difference (£)Difference (%)
EbicoEbico Evergreen paperless109212541620.15
Tonik EnergyLife Energy104811921440.14
Qwest EnergyQwest Energy Standard Flex111512401250.11
Spark EnergyMove-in Saver113012531230.11
EngieSafe And Easy110612261200.11

How have we ended up with more price rises?

What is key to understanding the price cap, is the fact that suppliers set their own standard tariff. They simply cannot go beyond the price cap limit.

As a consequence, what we have seen is the vast majority of suppliers, not only raising their prices, but pricing very close to the price cap limit.

Therefore the price cap – in a perverse twist of fate – appears to have opened up the door to price rises. 

This has added a collective £1.2 billion to people’s energy bills.

Suppliers’ gaps to the cap

Suppliers who match the capPrice of standard variable tariff
Orbit Energy1254
Toto Energy1254
Shell Energy1254
British Gas1254
EDF Energy1254
Sainsbury’s Energy1254
Within £10 of the cap
Spark Energy1253
Green Star Energy1253
Co-operative Energy1253
Flow Energy1253
Go Effortless Energy1252
OVO Energy1249
Utility Warehouse1248
Within £30 of the cap
Southend Energy1243
Your Energy Sussex1243
PFP Energy1242
Citizen Energy1241
Qwest Energy1240
Green Network Energy1234
Bristol Energy1234
Peterborough Energy1229
Robin Hood Energy1228
Angelic Energy1225
Beam Energy1225

Far too many suppliers are seeing the cap as a target and taking the opportunity to push prices up.

Is this to be expected of the price cap?

Firstly and perhaps most importantly wholesale energy costs have been dropping every month of this year. It’s therefore quite baffling as to why so many suppliers are putting up energy bills. 

This was never the intention of policymakers bringing in the cap.

Nonetheless the sheer number and scale of price rises this year raises serious questions about whether the price cap is as effective as it should be.