Speculation over British Gas price hike sparks calls for a “genuine alternative” to big energy companies

File photo of a gas hob with a British Gas bill. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

File photo of a gas hob with a British Gas bill. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Energy campaigners are calling on the government to invest more in public energy companies following speculation that British Gas could drop a 9% bills increase on its customers.

The country's biggest energy company was reportedly working on plans which would see a £94 average increase for millions of households for dual gas and electricity fuel bills, according to the Evening Standard.

The move would follow hot on the heels of a 9.8% price increase by rival NPower for dual fuel customers.

Laura Hill, from the Switched On campaign group, said a solution lay in the establishment of local public energy companies by the government to provide 'a genuine alternative' to 'rip-off merchants'.

She said British Gas' speculated move would 'really hurt hard pressed households, many of whom spent the winter months shivering in their homes'.

'By setting up local public energy companies that put affordable bills before profit, the government can ensure people are able to heat their homes. This is a basic need, not a luxury.'

EDF also hiked prices in December, and experts believe other energy providers may follow suit in the coming months in the face of rising wholesale energy costs.

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On Tuesday energy regulator Ofgem stepped in, setting a temporary price cap aimed at protecting over four million households who prepay for their energy.

British Gas owner Centrica said it 'never speculates on future pricing decisions'.