Energy company Bulb has been criticized by customers who say they use them like a bank. This forces them to pay higher bills even though many of them represent hundreds of pounds of supplier credit.
The bumper increases – up to 80% – could be an indicator of what to expect for customers of other suppliers struggling with record prices in the gas market after a week in which three other companies have gone. collapsed. Igloo Energy, Symbio Energy and Enstroga all went bankrupt last week.
Bulb, which has 1.7 million customers, has recently been at the center of takeover speculation and is looking for new investments to fund the business. It states on its website that it offers “fair prices that stay fair” – but customers have flooded Twitter to complain about the monthly price increases and ask if this is happening because the company has “problems with it.” money “.
Bulb dismissed any suggestion it was trying to support its finances and said it was standard practice for an energy company to look at what people are paying and make sure their accounts are healthy at the approach of winter.
Bulb announced in August that its gas and electricity prices would increase on October 1 broadly in line with the regulator’s price cap, which rose 12% for bi-fuel on the same date. Bulb then said a typical customer would pay £ 2.90 more per week. Separately, however, he did a salary review for many clients, which resulted in people receiving emails this week.
Among them was Karen Constable, a single mother with a four-year-old and a six-year-old, who was shocked to learn that Bulb wants to increase her monthly payment from £ 104.84 to £ 187.58 – an increase by 79%. The company told her that it would be her new monthly payment starting October 20 and that it would apply for the next seven months.
The agent, who lives in Glasgow and works part-time, said his account was £ 317 and his latest bill was £ 70. She said she had ‘never had a monthly bill as high as my usual agreed monthly payment of £ 105’.
Another customer, Ralph Worby, received an email indicating that Bulb wanted to increase their monthly payment by 61%, from £ 52.70 to £ 85.06. Worby tweeted: “I have a loan of £ 152 and the September statement was £ 36. I would like to know the logic of increasing it to £ 85.
Numerous emails state that “although your account is in credit, you are currently using more energy than your monthly payments can cover”, before presenting new higher monthly payments to “keep your account from being debited. during the winter “. .
Many other customers are facing increases of 30-40%.
Jamie Irvine, who lives in Liverpool, said Bulb wanted to increase their direct debit payment from £ 192 to £ 256.81 per month, an increase of £ 64.81.
He told the Observer that almost £ 65 extra a month was’ insane ‘, adding:’ When I got this email last night it was a good job I was sitting down or else I would have fallen. “
Irvine said his bills were around £ 125 per month, adding that although he was currently paying £ 192, part of that was credited to his account. He said he canceled his direct debit – instead he will foot the bill on the app every month – “and I will invest in warmer clothes and blankets this year.”
Other energy providers have taken a different approach. British Gas recently told customers that while its prices also increase on October 1, in line with the price cap, “we will not be increasing your direct debit to help keep costs affordable for you this winter” – although some might argue that it is simply delaying the pain.
Unlike some competitors, Bulb doesn’t have a lot of different deals – it has a price tag, which is variable, and customers pay a set amount each month.
The bulb has proven popular with many due to its claim to provide every customer with 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon neutral gas – but this does not offer protection against rising costs. fossil fuels.
The Observer forwarded details of some of the price increases to Bulb, who confirmed they were correct. Asked about the increases, a spokesperson said: “Every year as winter approaches, we reach out to our members to give them an update on their account and make sure it’s healthy, as people tend to use more energy during the months. the coldest. We are doing it as usual this year and will be working with our members to make sure their payments are right for them.
Octopus Energy has been named in the reports as one of the suppliers who might consider bidding for Bulb, which suffered a loss of £ 63million in the year through March 31, 2020.