A CUSTOMER has accused an energy firm of "preying on fear" after being hit with a 266% increase in his gas and electric bills.

James McEnaney was shocked to see his latest yearly estimate from Scottish Power soar from £106 per month to £387.97 per month.

Despite assuming the bill of almost treble his current costs was in error, the energy firm confirmed to the Glasgow Times that the price hike is correct.

James had tried to contact the company but received no response - yet Scottish Power responded once contacted by this paper.

The energy giant blamed the rise on the past year's "significant increase in energy costs".

But James, who lives with his wife and son, said: "You see loads of things about payments going up an awful lot so we were expecting ours to go up.

"But I cannot see for the life of me mathematically how an account that was in credit after the winter needs to almost treble.

"This looks like energy companies are trying to boost their own cash flow by quoting ridiculously high direct debits, trapping people into fixed rate tariffs and charging them a couple of hundred quid to get out of it."

James's new gas and electricity costs, he said, are now "a good chunk" more than his mortgage.

He said he is just about able to afford to pay the new price but added: "It’s clearly a ridiculous amount of money because it bears no relation to the price increase so they are at it."

After being contacted by the Glasgow Times, Scottish Power got in touch with James directly to suggest different tariffs, both Standard Variable and Fixed Rate.

The Standard Variable, which isn't presented as an option online, is £2163.22 while the Fixed Rate for one year is £4613.63.

Scottish Power claims the Fixed Rate offers peace of mind in case the autumn cap increases by another 50% - but even with a 50% increase, the Standard Variable is still cheaper.

James said: "If you compare the numbers of what I’ve been offered, which is on a fixed rate for one year, to the non-fixed rates it’s enormous.

"It’s massively, massively cheaper to go with non-fixed but people are worried about that because there’s a cost of living crisis and they are worried about it going higher.

"I’m no expert in this but there must be a point at which the fixed rate offers that the energy companies are making so much money that they are simply preying on people's fear."

James, a lecturer and author, said that while he is capable of navigating the system, he worries for people who don't have the knowledge to challenge their energy company.

He added: "I used to work for an energy company and I am quite happy being difficult but there are lots and lots of people who either are not that kind of person or don’t have the time or the knowledge to challenge this.

"What do you do if you’re in an insecure job or on minimum wage, or in poor quality housing that is more costly to heat and energy companies turn round and say we need to increase your energy costs by a few hundred pounds a month?

"I am clearly not going to be paying that, I’m dealing with this. But how many people would feel like there’s no option?

"The industry is exploiting the situation and exploiting people.

"What would this industry need to do to actual attract the attention of government? How desperate do people need to be?"

As price hikes begin to bite and affect people who are already struggling, James said politicians must take action on energy prices.

He said: "I simply can’t accept that it has to be like this.

"The idea of privatised energy companies is absolutely insane, even if you aren’t on the left and don’t want to nationalise everything from energy companies to cash machines, how can you think this is ok?

"If you, as a politician, could sit down with a parent terrified about how they’re going to heat their house and feed their kid and say this is ok then you need to be kept a million miles away from politics."

A ScottishPower spokesperson said: “Mr McEnaney is coming to the end of a 12 month fixed price deal at the end of April 2022.

"The price increase going forward is due to the significant increase in energy costs over the last year, which are unfortunately affecting the entire energy industry."