With energy companies seemingly hiking up their prices year after year, consumers who are pushed for time or don’t understand how to shop around for a better deal are finally receiving some reassurance.
That’s because the UK government is now insisting that energy companies inform customers about the most suitable tariff for them – and offer it to them if it is requested. It is estimated the move could save households up to £100 a year.
How the deal works
Under the terms of the agreement, the major energy companies in the UK: EDF Energy, British Gas, Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, E.ON and Npower; will all be required to contact their customers every 12 months and inform them of the best tariff available to them – and how they can get it. In addition, they will also be required to do the same for any customers that are coming to the end of a fixed-term contract.
It is believed that the plan will ensure suppliers give their customers a nudge in the right direction and encourage them to shop around when a fixed-term deal ends. However, the information will not do all the work for customers – they will only explain what you are currently paying and offer examples of other tariffs from the same supplier. It may still be possible to get better tariffs from other suppliers.
The government has also stated that it is examining the possibility of placing quick read codes on energy bills by spring 2013. These would contain information about someone’s energy consumption; and this could be shared with other energy suppliers to see if they could potentially offer a cheaper deal.
What about Irish energy consumers?
Of course all of these developments are for UK consumers – so what about Irish energy customers? Here it is necessary to take the initiative to find the best deal.
The first stop, of course, should be a comparison website. By entering details of your monthly consumption and your postcode, it should return an estimate from all of the leading energy suppliers – just ensure that the comparison website includes all of the leading energy firms in its line-up, and be prepared to check their websites directly if they are not included.
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that switching is a difficult process and not worth the time – on the contrary, it should be done without any interruption to your service. Remember too, that it may even be possible to find a cheaper deal from your existing supplier – so you may not need to switch at all. Most energy firms offer their cheapest deals to “new customers” and increase tariffs year on year, meaning you are effectively punished if you fail to take control and shop around regularly.
Also remember to look out for special offers and discounts. For example, Moneysaver.ie has a section devoted to utilities voucher codes.