British Gas has announced a hike in the prices of gas and electricity – and other energy firms may follow suit.
Consumers struggling to keep up debt repayments and deal with their other bills may find the going even harder as they are squeezed by increases of six per cent in both gas and electricity costs.
The company has sought to justify the price rises on the basis that wholesale costs are going up and Britain is no longer self-sufficient in gas, while investment is needed to upgrade Britain's ageing energy infrastructure.
It also cited the cost of government policies to ensure future energy is greener, with heavy investment in renewables.
Whether justified or not, the expense may be difficult for some to cope with and the reasons used by British Gas to raise prices might be echoed by rivals. Indeed, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has already announced price hikes due to come in later this month.
Price comparison site uSwitch said the increase would add £76 a year to dual fuel bills, taking the average from £1,260 to £1,336 a year.
Head of consumer policy at the site Ann Robinson said: "This is a bitter blow for consumers and comes just ahead of winter when the impact on bills will be even more acute.
"With SSE's price hike coming into effect next Monday and now Britain's biggest supplier announcing a hike of its own, the writing is on the wall for consumers this winter – energy bills are going skywards."
The extra cost may leave some people being forced to choose whether to heat their homes or eat this winter, she added.
Commenting for Money Supermarket, energy expert Scott Byrom said there is "little doubt" other energy providers will raise their prices as well, with E.ON the only company to have guaranteed to freeze prices for the rest of 2012.
By Joe White