How I saved £175 by switching energy provider

It seems everyone is raising their energy bills at once - so is there any point switching? Our writer was just forced to find out for herself.

What a coincidence. In the month that the energy companies start announcing price hikes, my cheap energy tariff – which was the market-leading tariff at the time that I and many thousands of other people were switching due to the last round of price rises – is expiring on the 31st October.

Hmm, is it me or is that terribly good timing for the energy companies? And, to add insult to injury, my current supplier, Scottish Power, is automatically going to move me onto its expensive Standard Tariff when my existing rate expires. How kind. Especially considering that this tariff just got even more expensive with the latest announcements.

Just like ISA and mobile phone providers, all of the big six energy firms seem to rely on the fact that most of us will fail to find the time and, ahem, energy to keep switching tariffs. That’s how they can lure us in, offering ultra competitive tariffs in the first place. Because they really make their money when our competitive rate expires and we’re automatically moved onto their massive rip-offs... sorry, I mean their Standard Tariffs.

If energy prices happen to go up at the same time, well, that’s even more reason to celebrate. As long as you’re an energy company shareholder. If, on the other hand, you’re a time-poor, cash-strapped loyal customer, then you might find you get a very nasty shock indeed when your next bill arrives.

(Incidentally, this practice is particularly something you need to watch out for when you move house, when most energy companies – even the one you were with at your previous address – will start you off on the Standard Tariff by default.)



Working out my bill...

So how much is Scottish Power planning to increase my bill by? To figure this out, I needed a spreadsheet and, I have to admit, a glass of wine.

First, I had to remember my log in details for my online energy account.

Second, I had to try to find out the name of my current energy tariff. I had assumed it would be on my latest bill. Unfortunately, here is what it said: “Current Service Package: WWW SVR11 D DF”

Oh dear. No wonder Ofgem wants bills to get simpler!

Anyway, eventually, I found an old email showing the name of my tariff to be, not gobbledegook, but Online Saver 11.

Then I had to search hard to find, tucked away in a unobtrusive link, an actual breakdown of the Kwh I have been using and the name of my current energy tariff. That way, I could figure out how much I am currently being charged.



...and what I would pay in future

Finally – and this is when I needed the wine – I tried to work out exactly what I will be charged on the Standard Tariff when the price changes come into effect. I knew from the announcements that the average bill will go up by 8.7% but I wanted to know exactly how the changes would affect me. Scottish Power has put a link on its homepage to explain its price changes, but – helpfully – the link detailing the changes to its standard tariff prices was wrong, and so didn’t work.

Even when eventually armed with the correct link, it was difficult to work out the price increase. With most tariffs, you pay a higher rate for the first chunk of gas and electricity you use, then a lower rate after that. With a Standard Tariff, however, you may be expected to pay a daily service charge, then a standard rate for all your usage. So this is where a spreadsheet comes in handy. (But if you can’t be bothered to figure it out for yourself, our energy comparison service will actually do it all for you.)

So, finally, I had my answer: when I am automatically moved to the Standard Tariff, my bill will increase by a whopping £180 a year!

Ouch. Of course, there is no way on earth I am sticking with Scottish Power if that is what is going to happen. The next question is: which supplier should I switch to?



Time to compare energy tariffs

As a first step, I decided to compare energy tariffs to see which one would be the cheapest.

The iSave Dual Fuel V12 from First:Utility came out top, offering me a saving of about £280. But I’ve heard this firm has a poor reputation for customer service. Next up was nPower’s Energy Online January 2014 tariff, offering a saving of around £250. But again, I have had poor customer service with this company, and so wouldn’t touch it again with a barge pole. Plus, both these tariffs are variable, and in this climate, I think I would prefer the security of a fixed rate.

Neck and neck in third place were Sainsbury’s Price Check January 2014 and Ovo Energy’s New Fixed deal, with savings of approximately £175. I liked the Ovo Energy deal best. Not only is it fixed for 12 months, unlike the Sainsbury’s deal, but it got some great customer service ratings from Which? (do let me know if you disagree). This tariff also has greener credentials than its competitors, donating £60 on your behalf to the charity Cool Earth to plant Amazonian rainforest as a reward for switching. It also promises to generate 15% of the electricity you consume from renewable sources.

So, although it is not the cheapest tariff I could switch to, it will provide me with peace of mind that my tariff won’t rise again during the expensive winter months, and I like the sound of the company.

What do you think? Are you planning to get a fixed rate? Or have you got anything – good or bad – to say about customer service you’ve received from energy firms? Please share your experiences using the Comments box below!

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