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View Full Version : The Minefield of Energy Providers


Naughty Nigel
2nd October 2018, 08:24 PM
I have received a notification from First Utility, our current energy provider that our Contact is due to expire shortly and inviting me to sign up for a new tariff.

We have been with First for several years now after switching from the Gas Board and they have always given reasonable value. However it seems that like Amazon, B&Q and many others they are now using their size, market dominance and customer loyalty to push up prices. The price they quoted me for next year on their 'best' tariff is around £2,600, which is getting on for double what we have paid for the past two years.

I realise that energy prices have risen, but not by that much!

On searching around I found several quotes significantly cheaper than we are paying now, but these are based on estimated usage for our house rather than our actual usage.

There were some good deals with heating system breakdown cover included, but with a £90 call out charge, no cover for pipes, radiators or water cylinders, and no cover for the labour costs to install a new boiler, or for upgrading an existing boiler.

I actually phoned Scottish Power and spoke to a very helpful chap who worked out some prices for me, but it seems they want to charge 35 pence per fuel per day standing charge because we are heavy users and that this allows them to offer lower unit prices. :confused:

My concern is that many of the figures quoted are estimates, so it seems there is no guarantee that you will pay what they say.

There was an outfit called 'Bulb' that seemed to have some reasonable offers but like most of the other I have never heard of them before. What a bliddy minefield. :mad:

Walti
2nd October 2018, 08:42 PM
IF you want to go for Bulb, PM me as I am a current (very satisfied) user and there is a little bonus of £50 available to you and me!

Naughty Nigel
2nd October 2018, 08:49 PM
Thanks Walti, I may very well take you up on that offer. :)

Jim Ford
2nd October 2018, 09:10 PM
What a bliddy minefield. :mad:

The privatised utilities give the customers choice. I'd like Scottish Water delivered down the pipes to our house in Hertfordshire, but there appears to be a problem!

Jim

Naughty Nigel
2nd October 2018, 09:16 PM
The privatised utilities give the customers choice. I'd like Scottish Water delivered down the pipes to our house in Hertfordshire, but there appears to be a problem!

Jim

I must say the water delivered here from the upper Tees by the French owned Northumbrian Water is really very nice, but it doesn't travel well.

I remember the water when my parents moved to the Dorset/Hampshire boarder area was disgusting!

TimP
3rd October 2018, 05:52 AM
Nigel, first thing to do is give us your annual consumption figures for both gas and electric. If you don’t have them then you need to look at some old bills for an actual reading figure, not an estimated one. With that figure you can easily work out what you will pay. I confess to taking daily gas and electric readings and monthly water meter ones. Having solar panels helps too as it gave me the impetus to take control of usage.

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 07:22 AM
Nigel, first thing to do is give us your annual consumption figures for both gas and electric. If you don’t have them then you need to look at some old bills for an actual reading figure, not an estimated one. With that figure you can easily work out what you will pay. I confess to taking daily gas and electric readings and monthly water meter ones. Having solar panels helps too as it gave me the impetus to take control of usage.

Thanks Tim. I have all the information to hand including my annual consumption, present unit costs and standing charges, but it seems many of the providers want to sell you an attractive looking estimate based on an 'average' house in your postcode area. :rolleyes:

You have to look harder to find what these figures are based on, whilst unit costs and standing charges seem to be absent. In most cases they like to use unrealistically low consumption figures to make it look as if you will be saving a lot of money, but if you chose the wrong tariff they will charge an exit fee.

Just to muddy the waters further some providers try to bundle boiler breakdown cover, but if you look at the T's & C's it would be cheaper to get you own plumber.

TimP
3rd October 2018, 07:33 AM
Out of interest what are your annual consumption rates? We’re electric and gas and gas is about 7500 kWh and elec around 1800. You should be able to plug those sort of figures straight into a comparison site to get an annual quote ( never switched so no experience)
Boiler cover I’d just see as an excuse for them to tell me my boiler is knackered and to try to sell me another ( I mean you British Gas!)

Wally
3rd October 2018, 07:48 AM
Try Out Fox the Market?. I had major issues with ScotPower and ended up going through hoops with the 'Ombudsman'... a total waste of time. The price increases for G & E, plus Daily Charges, was horrendous. Use your bills to calculate annual usage for a more accurate forecsat.

OFTM have no daily charges as such for G or E. There is, however, a single monthly payment - dependant on you usage - starting from £7pcm inc VAT. There are other caveats but, they are worth a look.

I've been with them just over 3 months and, so far without any problems. Chat line for initial queries was excellent as was other questions that popped up later on. You even get a reminder each month to give your readings.

Walti
3rd October 2018, 08:29 AM
I have received a notification from First Utility, our current energy provider that our Contact is due to expire shortly and inviting me to sign up for a new tariff.

We have been with First for several years now after switching from the Gas Board and they have always given reasonable value. However it seems that like Amazon, B&Q and many others they are now using their size, market dominance and customer loyalty to push up prices. The price they quoted me for next year on their 'best' tariff is around £2,600, which is getting on for double what we have paid for the past two years.

I realise that energy prices have risen, but not by that much!

On searching around I found several quotes significantly cheaper than we are paying now, but these are based on estimated usage for our house rather than our actual usage.

There were some good deals with heating system breakdown cover included, but with a £90 call out charge, no cover for pipes, radiators or water cylinders, and no cover for the labour costs to install a new boiler, or for upgrading an existing boiler.

I actually phoned Scottish Power and spoke to a very helpful chap who worked out some prices for me, but it seems they want to charge 35 pence per fuel per day standing charge because we are heavy users and that this allows them to offer lower unit prices. :confused:

My concern is that many of the figures quoted are estimates, so it seems there is no guarantee that you will pay what they say.

There was an outfit called 'Bulb' that seemed to have some reasonable offers but like most of the other I have never heard of them before. What a bliddy minefield. :mad:

On the Bulb website, you can get a quote based on your postcode, which to be blunt is meaningless... You then end up with a figure and a "refine my quote" button which allows you to enter your usage in kWh (for most accuracy) for both Electricity and gas to get a proper quote.

It seems to be the way most suppliers do their quotes as a surprising number of people simply don't know what they use or pay!

Otto
3rd October 2018, 08:46 AM
I switched from Ovo a few months ago when they wanted to increase my monthly payment for electricity (no gas out here) from £28 to £34. I'm now with ESB who originally quoted me around £29 but have just reduced my payment to £25 per month based on my meter readings. ESB Energy are a subsidirary of the Irish Electricity Supply Board and they have only recently entered the UK market so perhaps their prices reflect a desire to win new customers, but they seem to be OK so far and I rather like the idea of electricity from turf :).

TimP
3rd October 2018, 10:00 AM
Otto, how do you heat a place on electric and pay less than £30 a month? Super insulated?

Otto
3rd October 2018, 10:24 AM
Oil. That costs a bit more!

TimP
3rd October 2018, 10:27 AM
Oil, yeah, that would do it!

Keith-369
3rd October 2018, 11:12 AM
I change providers pretty much every year because in nearly every case, when your present contract comes to an end, they want to put you on their most expensive package. Hardly any of them are honest enough to quote their cheapest package for renewal. I have never had a problem in getting quotes using my actual usage. I have just moved from Tonik (who were very good and did quote their cheapest rate for renewal) to Yorkshire Energy who were cheaper (but not by much) than Tonic.

Otto
3rd October 2018, 11:15 AM
Ovo kept telling me I was on their best tariff, they just didn't tell me they kept putting their prices up!

drmarkf
3rd October 2018, 11:32 AM
The Guardian has a good site on this, which includes a good comparison calculator which includes various relevant factors in the calculations: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/22/energy-deals-switch-to-cheapest-tariff

Assumes you're happy to use such a communist rag, of course... :D

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 12:25 PM
Out of interest what are your annual consumption rates? We’re electric and gas and gas is about 7500 kWh and elec around 1800. You should be able to plug those sort of figures straight into a comparison site to get an annual quote ( never switched so no experience)
Boiler cover I’d just see as an excuse for them to tell me my boiler is knackered and to try to sell me another ( I mean you British Gas!)

Our electricity usage over the past year was 6,580 kWh, whilst gas was just under 22,000 KWh.

Unit prices were 14.232 p for electricity and 3.207 p for gas (per KWh).

Standing charges are currently 20.43 p per day for electricity and 16.2 p per day for gas.

One of my projects for the coming year is to install a shower which works from the hot water cylinder as it is fairly obvious that a 10.9 KW electric shower is costing quite a lot to run; especially when our daughter is home from Uni!

I work from home so we tend to use more power than households that are empty every day, but then I probably save a fortune in not having to commute anywhere. :)

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 12:30 PM
The Guardian has a good site on this, which includes a good comparison calculator which includes various relevant factors in the calculations: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/22/energy-deals-switch-to-cheapest-tariff

Assumes you're happy to use such a communist rag, of course... :D

I doubt they will have our postcode in that case Mark but I will give them a try. :D

TimP
3rd October 2018, 01:50 PM
Our electricity usage over the past year was 6,580 kWh, whilst gas was just under 22,000 KWh.

Unit prices were 14.232 p for electricity and 3.207 p for gas (per KWh).

Standing charges are currently 20.43 p per day for electricity and 16.2 p per day for gas.

One of my projects for the coming year is to install a shower which works from the hot water cylinder as it is fairly obvious that a 10.9 KW electric shower is costing quite a lot to run; especially when our daughter is home from Uni!

I work from home so we tend to use more power than households that are empty every day, but then I probably save a fortune in not having to commute anywhere. :)
That electric shower will be a killer, surprised you have one if you’ve got a gas boiler and a proper hot water tank, they’ve never been a cheap option in a house with gas. If it’s got an inbuilt pump though, you might be disappointed with the pressure (or not!) from the cylinder. We’re still getting free hot water from the immersion / solar panels although with the days getting shorter it’s gradually reducing, soon be time for the heating to go on.

Otto
3rd October 2018, 02:08 PM
There was an electric shower in this house when I bought it. When I refitted the bathroom I replaced it with a power shower running off the hot water cylinder, a great improvement.

I pay 12.57p per KWh plus 22p per day for electricity, fixed until next March. Heating oil is currently about 58p per litre, nearly twice what it was last year.

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 02:09 PM
That electric shower will be a killer, surprised you have one if you’ve got a gas boiler and a proper hot water tank, they’ve never been a cheap option in a house with gas. If it’s got an inbuilt pump though, you might be disappointed with the pressure (or not!) from the cylinder. We’re still getting free hot water from the immersion / solar panels although with the days getting shorter it’s gradually reducing, soon be time for the heating to go on.

The electric shower is just so convenient and it never runs out of hot water, but it will be costing a lot to run I know. Electricity now costs around five times that of gas per KWh, which leads me to question just how clean, green and efficient it is for running electric cars on?

I am happy with the idea of installing a booster pump for a power shower, which would be essential given our shallow roof pitch, but my hesitation concerns the length of time that the hot water cylinder (115 litres capacity IIRC) will provide hot water for? Measuring the throughput from the present electric shower I reckon it would need a minimum of about five litres a minute, which when blended wit cold water would probably provide about 40 minutes from a tank full of hot water. We tend to shower one after another; hence our problem.

We do not have nor want a combi boiler as it would not work for us owing to the location of the boiler itself which is some distance from where the hot water is needed.

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 02:18 PM
The Guardian has a good site on this, which includes a good comparison calculator which includes various relevant factors in the calculations: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/22/energy-deals-switch-to-cheapest-tariff

Assumes you're happy to use such a communist rag, of course... :D

I did take a look at the Grauniad comparison site and I must admit it is very good. The only problem is that it brings up even more bliddy energy companies and their tariffs! :mad:

Otto
3rd October 2018, 03:01 PM
I am happy with the idea of installing a booster pump for a power shower, which would be essential given our shallow roof pitch, but my hesitation concerns the length of time that the hot water cylinder (115 litres capacity IIRC) will provide hot water for? Measuring the throughput from the present electric shower I reckon it would need a minimum of about five litres a minute, which when blended wit cold water would probably provide about 40 minutes from a tank full of hot water. We tend to shower one after another; hence our problem.


But your boiler could be heating the water while you're using the shower. I generally prefer a bath to a shower and I know that the boiler doesn't take long to reheat the water after filling the bath, probably no more than 10-15 minutes. I can hear the boiler running (oil boilers are noisy!) and while I've not actually timed it, it feels like about that long before it cuts out again. You might find that your boiler reheats the water used for a shower in the time it takes you to dry yourself off afterwards!

Wally
3rd October 2018, 04:39 PM
The Guardian has a good site on this, which includes a good comparison calculator which includes various relevant factors in the calculations: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/22/energy-deals-switch-to-cheapest-tariff

Assumes you're happy to use such a communist rag, of course... :D


After reading the plot of a linked story, - Prancing Queen - I reckon I might need to re-start buying certain newspaers again. My kind of take on politics that I could read and re-read, then put back on the nail on the wall and use the real item to wipe clean the chocolate channel. :D *yes

Jim Ford
3rd October 2018, 06:11 PM
I must say the water delivered here from the upper Tees by the French owned Northumbrian Water is really very nice, but it doesn't travel well.

ISTRC that you don't have an automatic right to intercept the rain from the sky. It's the property on the water company. They're OK with it if you use it to water the garden, because it will then go back into the aquifers and rivers as it would naturally.

If it's true then those clouds in your sky Nigel are French clouds!

Jim

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 06:53 PM
ISTRC that you don't have an automatic right to intercept the rain from the sky. It's the property on the water company. They're OK with it if you use it to water the garden, because it will then go back into the aquifers and rivers as it would naturally.

If it's true then those clouds in your sky Nigel are French clouds!

Jim

So what happens after Brexit then? Will we have to pay the French import duties on rainwater? That'll cost Scotland and Wales a fortune. :D

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 07:45 PM
But your boiler could be heating the water while you're using the shower. I generally prefer a bath to a shower and I know that the boiler doesn't take long to reheat the water after filling the bath, probably no more than 10-15 minutes. I can hear the boiler running (oil boilers are noisy!) and while I've not actually timed it, it feels like about that long before it cuts out again. You might find that your boiler reheats the water used for a shower in the time it takes you to dry yourself off afterwards!

I take your point Richard but there is a subtle difference between condensing gas boilers and oil boilers.

The water in oil boilers needs to work at a high temperature (typically 80 ~ 85 °C) to minimise sooting of the heat exchanger. This significantly reduces the time taken to heat water in the cylinder. From memory the effective heating provided by water at 85 °C in the primary circuit is 4 KW, assuming a cylinder water temperature of 25 °C.

Condensing gas boilers, on the other hand, work most efficiently when the circulating water is at or below condensing temperature, which is usually about 67 °C. Efficiency at or below condensing temperature is claimed to be as high as 97 or 98%, but this drops to about 85% when the water temperature rises above condensing temperature. This is why modern radiators have been redesigned with greater surface area to work efficiently at lower temperatures.

Clearly this also has an effect on the transfer of heat within the hot water cylinder, and the maximum water temperature achievable in the cylinder.

That said, I am still keen to do it! :)

Jim Ford
3rd October 2018, 07:58 PM
I only shower and use very little water and energy compared with a bath.

I turn the shower on and wet myself all over. I then turn the shower off and soap myself down. I then rinse off. I guess the shower is only on for a couple of minutes total.

Jim

TimP
3rd October 2018, 08:03 PM
Jeez Jim, life’s too short!

Enjoy a good dousing.

Jim Ford
3rd October 2018, 08:10 PM
Jeez Jim, life’s too short!

Yes, and once I consider myself clean and rinsed, I dry myself and get on with it.

;)

Jim

Naughty Nigel
3rd October 2018, 09:29 PM
I only shower and use very little water and energy compared with a bath.

I turn the shower on and wet myself all over. I then turn the shower off and soap myself down. I then rinse off. I guess the shower is only on for a couple of minutes total.

Jim

I really cannot see junior management buying into that idea Jim! :D

She has just gone back to university halls where the students never see an energy bill, but that may well change when she has been there for a few months. :rolleyes:

Wally
3rd October 2018, 09:44 PM
I'm with Jim on this one. It's only dirty people that wash. ;)

TimP
4th October 2018, 07:51 AM
I really cannot see junior management buying into that idea Jim! :D

She has just gone back to university halls where the students never see an energy bill

Doesn’t this take us back to an earlier discussion around home economics being taught at school. This sort of thing is pretty basic yet by the time someone has their first home it’s probably too late and they face a huge bill. People are told that phone chargers waste electricity yet while it does add up its the heating type things that really eat the juice.

TimP
4th October 2018, 08:57 AM
Wasn’t austerity all about fixing the giant hole in the finances left by the last lot and here we are talking about letting them loose with the cheque book again only this time it’ll be the Marxist tramp signing those cheques, oh dear, oh very dear!
(Although is it any worse than the Tories giving it all to their mates)
Politically we really are screwed it would seem, getting the government we deserve, some would say!

Otto
4th October 2018, 09:57 AM
I take your point Richard but there is a subtle difference between condensing gas boilers and oil boilers.

The water in oil boilers needs to work at a high temperature (typically 80 ~ 85 °C) to minimise sooting of the heat exchanger. This significantly reduces the time taken to heat water in the cylinder. From memory the effective heating provided by water at 85 °C in the primary circuit is 4 KW, assuming a cylinder water temperature of 25 °C.

Condensing gas boilers, on the other hand, work most efficiently when the circulating water is at or below condensing temperature, which is usually about 67 °C. Efficiency at or below condensing temperature is claimed to be as high as 97 or 98%, but this drops to about 85% when the water temperature rises above condensing temperature. This is why modern radiators have been redesigned with greater surface area to work efficiently at lower temperatures.

Clearly this also has an effect on the transfer of heat within the hot water cylinder, and the maximum water temperature achievable in the cylinder.

That said, I am still keen to do it! :)


Thanks Nigel, I didn't know that. There are condensing oil boilers as well these days so there is presumably a tradeoff between sooting and efficiency? Mine is a conventional flued boiler with a proper cast iron heat exchanger and I've no plans to change it unless or until it fails beyond economical repair, and my local heating engineer agrees. I believe it's about 85% efficient. If I were to replace it with a more efficient one I'd need a radiator in the kitchen to compensate so I'd be back to square one, just a few grand poorer!

Naughty Nigel
5th October 2018, 07:19 AM
Doesn’t this take us back to an earlier discussion around home economics being taught at school. This sort of thing is pretty basic yet by the time someone has their first home it’s probably too late and they face a huge bill. People are told that phone chargers waste electricity yet while it does add up its the heating type things that really eat the juice.

They should have coin in the slot meters in halls! That would teach them more about economics and energy conservation than any classroom lesson. *yes

Problem is, they come home from Uni for holidays and see no reason to turn the lights off one not to use the heating. If it is too hot they just open a window. :(

And this is the generation that we are supposed to be saving the planet for! :mad:

TimP
5th October 2018, 07:22 AM
Coins? Slots? How quaint! They’d want Apple Pay nowadays where you’d wave your phone at a device, although somehow that wouldn’t feel like you were actually paying for something quite like a coin would.

Naughty Nigel
5th October 2018, 07:25 AM
Coins? Slots? How quaint! They’d want Apple Pay nowadays where you’d wave your phone at a device, although somehow that wouldn’t feel like you were actually paying for something quite like a coin would.

In any case where would you get coins from? Everything is contactless nowadays and all of the banks have closed. :(

Money has become invisible and spending it is just so easy.

TimP
5th October 2018, 07:28 AM
Tell that to my rum bottle!, oh and the copper ones go into a small bucket.

Naughty Nigel
23rd November 2018, 09:57 AM
By way of an update on the above, I finally decided to go with The Powershop, which was top of the list for savings on the Guardian table.

The concept is rather different to other power companies in that you have the option to buy 'Power Packs' of limited value in advance whilst making significant savings. For example, I have pre-purchased power packs worth about £60 each for December, January and February at discounts of 41% on the standard tariffs. I have bought similar packs for the present month providing savings of about 21%. Any unused credit is rolled forward to the following month.

The downside is that these advance purchase packs do not cover all of our consumption so the remainder has to be paid for at the standard rate at the end of each month. However, I believe there are occasional flash offers available via the app to buy additional power.

For comparison the base rates are 16.023 pence per kWh for electricity and 3.602 pence per kWh for Gas. These rates reduce to a claimed average of 12.737 and 2.867 pence per kWh when purchasing the power packs.

On the plus side there is no minimum contract term and no early exit fees so if we don't like it we can easily go elsewhere.

My main irritation at present is that our account with First Utility (our previous supplier) is currently about £500 in credit. This is the result of monthly payments being steadily increased on the grounds that we 'could be a few pence in debt at the end of January', even though I have contacted them many times to challenge their calculations.

First Utility have now written to advise that it will take a month for them to receive my final meter readings from our new supplier, (they have them already!) and that it will take a further two to three weeks to process these figures and to make any final charges or issue a refund.

I cannot help but feel this process would happen a lot more quickly if I owed them £500, but perhaps I am just a conspiracy theorist. :rolleyes:

TimP
23rd November 2018, 11:12 AM
I’m probably missing something here but if you can purchase in advance to save 41% then why not purchase a years worth in advance, let any ‘spare’ roll over and then this time next year buy another years worth in advance? Surely the roll overs in the spring and summer months will mean you buy smaller packs next year.

Naughty Nigel
23rd November 2018, 11:34 AM
I would if I could Tim!

However, you are missing the fact that the Power Packs are limited to about £60 in value, and you can only buy one of each, so you cannot buy an eternal supply of energy!

By way of a bonus I bought a Black Friday special Powerpack today for £25.76 which is worth £46.84 of energy.

I should add the caveat that we have only just joined PowerShop, so they don't yet have our consumption profile and are basing their offers on 'average estimated' consumption values. Once they have built up our profile the offers will be geared to our actual consumption.

TimP
23rd November 2018, 11:51 AM
I hope you take regular meter readings NN, if so you’ll have a damn good idea of usage so you can keep an eye on what happens with the company’s idea of your usage. Send them monthly meter readings.

Otto
23rd November 2018, 11:56 AM
I just looked at my portal on the ESB website, they say they reckon my meter should be reading 27353 today. It's actually 27348, so that was a pretty good estimate! They were asking for an update which I duly entered. Ovo used to email a reading request when they wanted one but ESB don't for some reason, and I seldom remember. This thread reminded me it had been a while since I gave them the last one :).

TimP
23rd November 2018, 12:19 PM
NN, interesting thread here:

https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5637436&page=47&highlight=powershop

Naughty Nigel
23rd November 2018, 01:58 PM
NN, interesting thread here:

https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5637436&page=47&highlight=powershop

Thank you, yes.

That is more or less what I am doing.

The downside with Powershop is that you need to be proactive in buying energy (Power Packs) in advance when the prices are competitive, but that is no different to filling the car at the supermarket or in town rather than on the motorway.

If you do nothing and pay their Baseline tariff you will be paying little or no more than most other providers so there isn't too much to lose. And if all else fails it is easy to leave.

One thing that has become clear to me is that you now have to pay quite a big premium for the comfort of fixing energy prices for the next year or two.

TimP
23rd November 2018, 02:05 PM
Have they demanded you fit a smart meter?

Naughty Nigel
23rd November 2018, 05:55 PM
Have they demanded you fit a smart meter?

No; and in fact their system does not work with smart meters. If you have a smart meter you have to read it manually and submit the readings online or via the app.

I am actually quite pleased about that as I have no particular wish to have a Smart Meter fitted and I am becoming rather irritated by phone calls, emails and letters on the subject. Hopefully these will now stop.

However, it does occur to me that the present system is open to abuse. We have not had a single visit form a meter reader since leaving the gas Board in 2013. It has occurred to me that if we used enough electricity we could get the electricity meter to lap itself. That should be easy enough with a cannabis farm in the loft, or with our daughter in the shower! :D

Harold Gough
28th November 2018, 07:17 PM
With all this talk of switching suppliers it should be pointed out that the smaller ones are going out of business in considerable numbers. What happens to their customers, and to any advance purchase deals, is something to research.

Harold

TimP
28th November 2018, 07:25 PM
I understand that money held in credit by the supplier going out of business is protected by Ofgem, but no idea if that affects the system(s?) where you purchase specific ‘packs’ of electricity up front. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a deliberate loophole on their part to abscond with the money. Where there’s money there’s someone thinking up ideas to grab it.

Naughty Nigel
28th November 2018, 08:48 PM
With all this talk of switching suppliers it should be pointed out that the smaller ones are going out of business in considerable numbers. What happens to their customers, and to any advance purchase deals, is something to research.

Harold

This is a valid question, especially given the number of store gift vouchers that are now worthless.

I guess that in the event of an energy company collapsing you would have a certain time to find a new provider, or would have a new provider chosen for you.

If you were in debt with the provider I have no doubt that the Administrator or Receiver would come after any moneys that were owed.

At present we are just over £200 in credit with Powershop, which is only about a month's worth at this time of the year. By contrast we were nearly £400 in credit with First Utility, and are still awaiting a refund even though our final bill was received a week ago. (Apparently it takes longer to process refunds than payments. I cannot think why.)

On balance I don't think there is any greater risk making pre-payments to energy suppliers than having them build up large credits on your account.

I think legally there may also be a distinction between pre-payment for energy (which is a specific product) than gift cards which can be used to pay for almost anything.

If they do abscond with customer's money it is theft, plain and simple.

Jim Ford
29th November 2018, 09:17 AM
I find all this business of different energy providers bizarre.

It's all the same 'stuff' coming down the wire - it's not as if they deliver it to you by pulling a big 'knife' switch somewhere. It's just different billing companies collecting different amounts of profit.

Jim

TimP
29th November 2018, 10:10 AM
I tend to agree, and readily admit to never having switched. Simply CBA, the potential for issues is too great and these things normally affect us anyway. If my current (see what I did there) supplier forces me to have a smart meter then that is when I’ll switch, just out of principle. Nationalise the utilities, including broadband, set a standard price and have done with it.

Jim Ford
29th November 2018, 10:23 AM
Nationalise the utilities, including broadband, set a standard price and have done with it.

Totally agree - public service instead of private profit.

Jim

Naughty Nigel
29th November 2018, 10:32 AM
I find all this business of different energy providers bizarre.

It's all the same 'stuff' coming down the wire - it's not as if they deliver it to you by pulling a big 'knife' switch somewhere. It's just different billing companies collecting different amounts of profit.

Jim

I agree. The only difference is the profit margin that our chosen providers expect to make on the energy that we buy through them.

Even more bizarrely, you can choose pay a premium price for clean, green electricity, but on most days of the year at least some of the electricity that you use will have been generated by 'dirty' coal fired power stations!

Why do we do it this way? Firstly, the old electricity boards and CEGB were claimed to have been very inefficient and wasteful so the whole industry was broken up into smaller, more manageable sections. I think it was also the case that private investment was needed to update ageing infrastructure such as old, inefficient coal fired power stations. I think this was Maggies brainchild but like rail privatisation Tony Blair was happy to take it to a natural conclusion.

Secondly, it was suggested that competition between providers would keep prices down. I think the original idea was that there would be a dozen or so energy providers who would sell us gas and electricity, but now there are hundreds of them; some more reputable than others.

I had a run in with nPower a few years ago when they sent me a final bill, with menaces nearly six years after I had closed my old office! When I queried the bill, which was much higher than it should have been, (£650 for a one month period in late summer) they threatened to send debt collectors. I asked them to take me to court but they refused, but continued to make threatening phone calls and send (what looked like) solicitor's letters on an almost daily basis claiming that I had evaded them for five years, which was utter bollox.

I complained to OFGEM who resolved the problem amicably, but I still continued to receive threatening letters and phone calls from debt collectors, in some cases pretending to be solicitors. As a result of this I was called to give evidence to OFGEM, who later fined nPower £4 million if I recall, which I think was the first time a utility company had been fined.

I got to be interviewed about this on the BBC Moneybox programme, and said that in my view they should have been fined much more. A politician also being interviewed on the programme said that 'competition was the answer to the problem', but I pointed out that competition does nothing to prevent total incompetence.

Otto
29th November 2018, 11:10 AM
The concept of buying something and then choosing who to pay for it and how much is utterly bizarre. I have better things to do than trawl the internet for who is offering the best price for electricity etc. I have switched three times in the past 16 years, each time getting a lower price and so far I'm still ahead, but I'll probably have to go through the same tedious process at the end of my present contract.