So before the dark nights roll in and you dust off your long johns, it’s time to snuggle up and sort out your energy bills…
Winter is the highest-use energy period and on average most people are overspending by over 30% (often £300 a year), simply due to being on the wrong tariff.
If you’ve not switched in the last 12 months and are with one of the big six – British Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE - almost invariably that means you’re one of those people, as you’ll be on their very expensive standard tariff.
If you’re with anyone else, you could still be overpaying too, so check.
While the PM has recently said she wants to cap prices, if it passes through parliament, it’s over a year away, and the savings will likely be trivial compared to what you can save if you act now.
IS IT EASY TO SWITCH?
Yes. It only takes minutes to find your cheapest deal and then it should be switched over in 21 days. It’s the same pipes, gas, meter, safety and you don’t lose supply – the only difference is price and customer service. As your cheapest depends on where you live and what you use, there’s no one winner. So just plug your details into my Cheap Energy Club or any other www.ofgem.gov.uk approved comparison site and it’ll give the best deal for you. Beware, comparison sites are now allowed to only show you tariffs that pay them, which means you may not see the whole of the market (for the sake of transparency my Cheap Energy Club defaults to all deals). Those who aren’t online can call up some comparison sites too.
WHY ARE THE CHEAPEST ALWAYS SMALL COMPANIES I’VE NEVER HEARD OF?
When people talk about the difficulty of switching, I don’t think it’s the comparison, but picking their winner. The energy market is swamped with new firms, and often at launch they offer super-cheap deals to build a customer base; yet feedback is limited or poor. Someone on typical use (by this, to be technical, I mean Ofgem’s typical use for someone on a dual fuel direct debit tariff) on a big six standard tariff is spending £1,130 a year. Yet the very cheapest deals are £310 a year less than this on the same usage. Often, the first five or more firms on your results page are new, so if that worries you, simply scroll down the comparison site results to one you know, or one which has a good customer service feedback rating (some allow you to filter by this). The savDon’t wait for energy cap ings can still be over £300.
WHAT IF I JUST WANT A NAME I RECOGNISE?
Even though many of the big six have hideous tariffs, they can also offer some good ones too. For most people, at the time of writing, the cheapest big six deal on average is a one-year fix with Eon, saving £230 per year. Yet always do a comparison, as the cheapest does depend on your situation. And remember most cheap tariffs are fixes, meaning you’re guaranteed no price rises for a set time.
WHAT IF I JUST DON’T WANT TO SWITCH?
I get that a lot, but EVERY big six provider has a cheaper deal than its standard tariff - so through gritted teeth let me say, if you won’t switch as you’re loyal to your existing firm, at least ensure you’re on its cheapest tariff. Call them up and ask them (or better use a comparison site to see your providers cheapest and how much extra you’ll be spending to be with it).
WHAT IF I’M ON A PREPAYMENT METER?
If you pay by a key or card meter, then outrageously there’s nowhere near as much competition, and you pay more – though prices have been capped which has helped a touch. If you do a comparison there are often savings to be made, but often less than £100. Try and switch to a billed meter, it’s free to do with one of the big six providers, and you’ll usually be credit scored to check you’re capable of keeping up with payments. If this still isn’t enough call the Energy Saving Trust helpline on 0300 123 1234 (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) or 08088082282 (Scotland) to see what help is available to you.
* Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com. To join the 12 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to his website HERE.