September 14, 2016
When a customer falls in to debt with their energy supplier, the supplier can force them on to a pre-payment meter and then charge them up to £900 for the installation.
Energy regulator, OFGEM, has now said that customers who are forced to install prepayment energy meters should be charged a maximum fee of £150. A proposal that has been welcomed by consumer charity, Citizens Advice.
Who does this apply to
As many as 4.5 million people use prepayment meters for electricity, while 3.5 million use them for gas.
Prepayment customers also face higher energy bills. Earlier this year the Competition and Markets Authority recommended that customers on prepayment meters should have their energy prices capped. This will come in to effect in April 2017 and households are expected to save £75 a year as a result.
At the moment, energy suppliers must come to an agreement with a customers that fall into debt. If no arrangement is sorted, then the energy supplier can apply to a magistrate's court for a warrant to install a prepayment meter. If given permission to install the meter then, by law, they can charge for the cost of putting it in. Some suppliers don't charge anything but others can charge as much as £900 when the court costs are included.
The New OFGEM Proposal
OFGEM have suggested that customers who've had a repayment meter forced upon them, should only pay between £100 and £150. The most vulnerable customers, many of whom this applies to, should not pay anything.
Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice said of the announcement
"Capping the warrant charges and ending them altogether for vulnerable customers will help to stop people being pushed further into debt when they are already struggling to manage their costs"
Rachel Fletcher, OFGEM's senior partner for consumers and competition comments:
"It's deeply unfair that struggling customers get hit with high warrant costs when they're already grappling with debt, doubly penalising them. Ofgem's role is to protect every consumer, including the most vulnerable. Suppliers need to help customers manage their debts.
Suppliers need to ensure that PPMs are only installed under warrant as an absolute last resort. Where they are needed, our proposals will protect customers by limiting PPM warrant charges for all customers and removing them for the most vulnerable."
You should be aware that if you're in debt with your current supplier then you can still switch energy suppliers, as long as the debt in less than £500. To find out more about your options call one of our advisers on: 01259 220000. You can also arrange a switch online. Energylinx offer a free and impartial comparison and switching service.
Posted on September 14, 2016 at 02:55 PM
August 31, 2016
There is a new trend emerging in the energy industry, as the UK's "Big Six" Energy Suppliers start to claw back customers from their smaller rivals.
Figures from trade group EnergyUK show that the percentage of switchers moving from a large to a small supplier fell in June to the lowest numbers since March 2015. It's thought that independent suppliers are struggling to cope with more than 20% recovery in prices for winter since April.
With commodity prices bouncing back, the discount that smaller supplier can offer against the bigger suppliers is shrinking and several small suppliers have now put their energy prices up to cover their wholesale costs.
In 2015, wholesale energy prices dropped as much as 30% and small energy suppliers took advantage of this as they were able to slash tariffs. Large suppliers typically buy a few years ahead, locking in prices over a longer period, meaning they can't cut average prices as quickly.
As a result, data from EnergyUK showed that customers rushed to find better-priced deals. In March 2016 a record 206,419 customers switched from a large to a small supplier. A trend that has started to reverse.
In July, RWE won more than 200,000 new British customers, returning its customer base to end-2015 levels. SSE, the UK's second-biggest supplier reduced customers to 50,000 between March and June, from 90,000 lost over the same period last year.
Analyst at Morgan Stanley have a warning for smaller suppliers:
"Over the next few years, after the recent increase in commodity prices, the prevailing conditions may not be so helpful. We expect the independent suppliers to be a lasting phenomenon, but we suspect that it may get tougher for them to continue taking market share as they have done since 2013".
The bank added that small suppliers have also been exempt from many of the environmental charges levied against the largest suppliers in the market, and have avoided the billing issues suffered by suppliers including Npower and Scottish Power.
There is a simple way of finding out which energy supplier could save you the most money and it only takes two minutes. Energylinx is an OFGEM accredited comparison website that compares every energy tariff on the market - ensuring that you don't miss out on the best deal. Click here to be taken to our impartial and free comparison and switching tool.
Posted on August 31, 2016 at 12:42 PM
August 15, 2016
Energy suppliers have been ordered to refunds thousands of gas customers affected by a meter reading error.
This mistake has been caused by energy companies confusing older imperial meter measurements with modern metric ones and it is believed several thousand households have been overcharged.
An OFGEM spokesperson told the BBC that they have written to all energy suppliers to identify any customers that this mistake may affect and to arrange refunds where appropriate. In the cases where customers have been undercharged there will be no further payment.
OFGEM said the mistake had been caused by human error with E.ON being the first supplier to become aware of the problem. The energy suppliers said they had overcharged 350 of their customers. However, other companies may also have been affected. Suppliers have been ordered to identify any customers who have been overcharged by Friday this week.
Industry sources told the FT that some people may have underpaid by 60% as a result of the error but those who were overcharged may have paid in excess of 130% more than they should have.
Trade body Energy UK said firms were "working hard" to address the issue.
The trade association, which represents the major energy companies, said "detailed analysis" showed" an extremely small number of accounts" had been affected.
"Any customer affected will be contacted shortly by their supplier and where there has been overcharging, a refund will be issued as quickly as possible," it added.
Posted on August 15, 2016 at 04:19 PM
August 10, 2016
During the school holidays, UK households are less likely to switch their energy supply - not this summer!
Over 300,000 (333,653) people switched electricity supplier in July, which is a record high for July and a 22% increase from July 2015. This brings the total number of electricity switches to over two and a half million (2,658,437) so far in 2016.
July's data shows 76,174 customers switched to small and mid-tier suppliers in July, which is 23% of all switches.
Movement between Supplier Groups
• 42% of switches were between larger suppliers; British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE.
• 35% of households switching left a larger supplier to go to a small or mid-tier energy supplier.
• 13% of switches were from small to mid-tier suppliers to larger suppliers.
• 10% of switches were between small and mid-tier suppliers
Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK said:
"It is fantastic to see customers shopping around over the summer months when energy bills are the last thing on the minds of most people. More than 40 suppliers are offering some great deals especially for those who haven't switched for several years and could potentially save hundreds of pounds. It is easy, safe and quick to switch supplier and the new Energy Switch Guarantee is designed to increase customer confidence in the process."
Wondering what you could save on your energy bills, look no further. Energylinx offer a free and impartial comparison and switching service. Unsure how to arrange the transfer online? Our excellent advisors will go through the transfer for you, just call 01259 220000. Our new opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 10am-5pm.
Posted on August 10, 2016 at 12:53 PM
August 4, 2016
On the back of the two-year CMA investigation in to the gas and electricity market, OFGEM has announced new plans designed to increase competitiveness and make the energy market fairer for all.
According to the CMA's investigation, two thirds of households are paying over the odds for their energy compared to those who have switched suppliers. It warned that as much as 70% of customers were on the more expensive "default" standard variable tariff.
The investigation ended in June and Energylinx think it's great to see OFGEM quickly taking forward the CMAs recommendations to increase competition and reach people who aren't engaged in the market.
By introducing a cap on prepayment meters, the first of OFGEMs changes should save four million UK households around £75 a year. This will begin in April and will end in 2020.
In an attempt to engage customers who don't regularly compare and switch their energy tariff, the regulator will also be trialling more effective prompts to encourage customers to switch.
Proposals include working with suppliers to help "disengaged" customers shop around. As part of this OFGEM has revealed plans to pilot a database service in 2017, which will allow rival suppliers to offer those customers on standard variable rates for three years, better value deals.
OFGEM has plans to roll out smart meters to every household in the UK by 2020, and to make switching suppliers faster and easier and drive down energy bills.
Is it enough?
Whilst any shake-up of the energy industry is welcomed, many have questioned whether this is enough to encourage customers who just aren't bothered about switching their gas or electricity supplier.
Consumers are frequently told of the benefits of switching energy supplier. They hear it from the government, consumer groups, energy suppliers, and energy comparison websites. Yet, for the majority this falls on deaf ears.
"The Disengaged" as CMA refers to them, tend to be on low incomes, have few qualifications, are tenants or are aged over 65. So, pensioners all around the country and those struggling to make ends meet, aren't engaging with the industry. They aren't doing the one simple thing that could have a massive impact on their energy bills and the latest OFGEM report has been criticised for "not going far enough" for them.
Ed Kamm, managing director of First Utility, told the BBC that one problem with the proposals was that they were 'helping those who already shop around and doing little to properly help those who are continuing to pay much more than they need to or should'.
Whilst Which? Welcomed OFGEMs report, they acknowledged the difficulty in establishing the proposals.
Alex Neill, Which? Director of Policy and Campaigns, said:
"After two years of investigation into the energy market it's now time for action, so it's good to see OFGEM swiftly taking forward the CMAs recommendations to increase competition and reach people who are not engaged in the market.
The regulator faces a huge challenge in implementing all of these recommendations in a way that stimulates competition to deliver better outcomes for many more consumers. For this to happen the industry will need to commit to working with the regulator to ensure people get a fairer deal on their energy."
Energy UK agrees that customers need to be at the heart of what the industry does. In a statement, it said:
"Over two million customers have switched (energy supplier) in 2016 so far. There are now 44 suppliers in the market, offering different tariffs for different needs. Prices are now £200 cheaper than in 2014 with over 40 deals under £900."
Without sounding like a broken record, Energylinx recommend that to benefit from a competitive market, you need to compare energy suppliers. Energylinx offer a free and impartial energy comparison and switching service - you will be amazed at what you can save.
Posted on August 4, 2016 at 10:25 AM
July 19, 2016
Energylinx is one of twelve OFGEM accredited price comparison websites. Every comparison site that is accredited by OFGEM is governed by the regulators Confidence Code. This is a set of key principles that members must follow to operate their service.
OFGEM carry out checks of all its Confidence Code members to ensure that they continue to operate to their standards. One of these checks takes the form of an annual website audit, the last audit took place in April 2016 with Energylinx meeting or exceeding every requirement across the board.
The audit looks at three key areas; impartiality, pricing and that Energylinx offers customers a comparison of the whole market.
We want our customers to have the full picture. Whether you get a quote online or over the phone, Energylinx will always show every tariff that is available to you. We are completely impartial and will show you price plans from every single energy supplier in the market, regardless of whether they pay us a commission or not. The list of suppliers that pay us commission is clearly listed on our website.
Our results are displayed in order of who is the cheapest based on the information you provide to us. The only way an energy supplier can top the results page is if their energy prices are the most competitive. Our customers can rest assured that Energylinx are completely impartial, and that by default we will make them aware of who offers them the biggest saving - not us the most commission!
The pricing team at Energylinx are brilliant. There is now 44 domestic energy suppliers on the market, all with multiple tariffs. The pricing team guarantee that our gas and electricity price database is accurate; and that any new tariff changes are updated the same working day.
Our pricing time work hard to ensure Energylinx customers are seeing up to date pricing and making a decision about their gas and electricity tariff based on accurate and correct information.
Our database includes every single tariff available in the market from every licensed domestic energy supplier. You won't be able to find any tariffs on any other sites that we don't include within our comparison, allowing you to make a fully informed choice when comparing energy prices with Energylinx. If we don't have a commercial agreement in place with an energy supplier, then you will be able to contact the supplier directly to take advantage of the tariff.
Energylinx strive to be able to allow our customers to arrange a transfer to every energy supplier, but sometimes this isn't possible. You can rest assured, however, that we will always inform you of a tariff.
According to OFGEM, 60% of energy users have never pursued switching companies - meaning that homeowners in the UK could be overpaying their energy bills by over £4 billion every year.
If you or anyone you know feels as if they could be paying too much for their energy bills, then use our free and impartial energy comparison tool - which is 100% approved by OFGEM.
Posted on July 19, 2016 at 08:26 AM
July 14, 2016
In June 360,000 households switched their energy supply - a massive 58% increase on the same month in 2014. In 2016 so far, more than two million customers (2,323,694) have switched energy suppliers, which is almost a million more than switched their energy supply in the first 6 months of 2014.
The latest electricity switching data also shows 120,115 customers switched to small and mid-tier suppliers in June which is 33% of all switches for the month. Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive of Energy UK, said:
"It is great to see more and more customers shopping around over the summer months before winter hits. Over two million people have already switched supplier in 2016 and they have taken advantage of the fantastic deals offered by more than 40 suppliers. Since June 2014 the cheapest tariffs have fallen by over £200. There are now around 50 deals under £900 on offer. The new Energy Switch Guarantee - launched by the Industry last month - has made it even easier for customers to switch."
In June 2016, of all switches:
• 43% were between larger energy suppliers
• 33% were from larger to small and mid-tier energy suppliers
• 14% were from small and mid-tier to larger energy suppliers
• 9% were between small and mid-tier energy suppliers
Posted on July 14, 2016 at 03:00 PM
July 4, 2016
British Gas has launched a new tariff that offers free daytime electricity for one day at the weekend. In a deal that is being billed as the first of its kind- benefiting a 2.4 million customers currently supplied by British Gas and that have a smart meter installed. British Gas currently supply 11 million homes throughout the UK.
British Gas said the "FreeTime Tariff" would be its cheapest dual-fuel deal and give customers more control over when and how they consume energy. The tariff, the first to offer smart-meter customers free electricity, will be fixed until March 2018.
British Gas has been running trials on this tariff and said that the change in customer's behaviour has saved on average £60 per year. Those customers moved some of their energy consumption to the free period, which made up 11% of the average customer's usage.
Sarwjit Sambhi, British Gas's managing director of UK home, said:
"FreeTime is an industry first and will give our customers greater control of their energy use. This will be the first of many smart-meter innovations from British Gas which will also contribute to managing the country's demand for power from the national grid."
Smart meters allow customers to keep up with how much energy they use and track what it is costing them on a monitor. They do away with meter readings and are meant to give people an incentive to save energy and money.
Whilst the concept of free weekend electricity for customers with smart meters is a positive move by British Gas, the smart meter rollout is still in its early stages. Currently functionality across suppliers is still creating challenges. It is worth pointing out that there are also cheaper deals out there for customers, that would see them paying less than on British Gas' standard tariff.
Government figures show that the 2.75m smart meters installed in British homes make up 5.8% of all domestic meters operated by large energy suppliers. The big suppliers installed more than 540,000 meters in the first three months of this year. The government wants all of the UK's more than 26m homes to have a smart meter by 2020 and has required suppliers to offer one of the meters to all their customers. The push is part of the government's plan to upgrade Britain's ageing energy system and reduce energy use.
Interested to find out what you could save on your energy? Energylinx provide a free and impartial online comparison and switching service. If you would rather speak to one of our energy advisers then they are available Monday-Friday 9am-8pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm. The number to call is 01259 220 000.
Posted on July 4, 2016 at 02:51 PM
June 24, 2016
Today, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued their final report in to what has been a two-year long investigation in to the energy industry.
The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) first referred the energy market to the CMA in 2014, a decision made at the height of concerns about the energy sector and after years of mounting fears. The main reason the decision to refer the market was made was (likely) due to the continuously rising cost of household energy bills. There had been a rapid increase in retail energy prices between 2004 and 2014: average annual domestic gas prices rose by around 125% in real terms over the period, and domestic electricity prices by around 75%.
Confirming provisional findings announced earlier this year, the CMA said that energy suppliers should be ordered to hand details of customers who have been on a default tariff for more than three years to OFGEM.
These details will then be used to build a database to allow rival suppliers to approach these customers, although it is intended that customers can opt out of this database at any time.
It is hoped that the database remedy will tackle the issue of low customer engagement in the energy market. The CMA's research discovered that large numbers of domestic customers do not engage in retail energy markets by shopping around or switching supplier. In a survey conducted of 7,000 domestic customers, 34% of respondents said they had never considered switching supplier and 56% said they had never switched supplier, did not know if it was possible or did not know if they had done so.
Reflecting this widespread lack of engagement, around 70% of the customers of the Six Large Energy Firms currently pay the Standard Variable Tariff (SVT), which is the default tariff (ie the tariff customers pay if they have not made an active choice), despite the fact that SVTs are much more expensive than alternative tariffs. For example, the dual fuel SVT customers of the Six Large Energy Firms (excluding prepayment customers, who, as noted below, have a very restricted range of tariffs) could have made average annual savings of around £330 in mid- 2015 if they had switched to another supplier. At Energylinx we can't say this enough, fixed priced tariffs are significantly cheaper than a suppliers standard tariffs, so shop around for your energy because you could save a small fortune.
A price cap will also be transitioned (2017-2020) in for the 4m households on a prepayment meter, this is intended to reduce the combined bill for these customers by £300m a year.The CMA believe that the detriment suffered by prepayment customers is particularly high and they have not been able to benefit from competitive prices in the same way as other customers due to the constraints we have identified.
Furthermore, the CMA announced that it intended to strengthen some of the powers that OFGEM had, which should allow the regulator to push through change more efficiently and to keep a closer eye on the marketplace.
The measures announced today are intended to increase competition in the marketplace and ultimately ensure customers can get the best deal possible on their energy bills. The CMA research also revealed that customers are currently paying £1.4bn more than they would be in a fully competitive market.
Roger Witcomb, chairman of the energy market investigation, said: "Competition is working well for some customers in this market - but nowhere near enough of them. Our measures will help more customers get a better deal and put in place a modernised energy market equipped for the future."
Posted on June 24, 2016 at 11:34 AM
June 16, 2016
There was some good news for energy suppliers this week, figures from Energy UKs 2015 Billing Code Audit shows an improvement across the board.
Energy UK worked closely with five of the "Big Six" Energy Suppliers; British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, RWE npower and ScottishPower to develop the billing code. The code currently only applies to domestic customers and sets voluntary standards to go over and above the supplier standard licence conditions.
Participating energy suppliers are judged against five key commitment areas: switching, meter reading, energy bills and statements, payments, and back-billing. Although other energy suppliers undoubtedly follow the principles of the billing code, they are not audited to the same strict standards as members of the code.
An audit is carried out of the five code members each year to make sure that they are continuing to follow it. Of the five members, two suppliers received a gold rating for their audit - British Gas and EDF Energy. E.On and ScottishPower received Bronze and RWE nPower didn't receive a rating due to billing issues the supplier experience in 2015.
General findings of the audit showed in the majority or cases, suppliers are billing customers properly and have robust processes and controls in place. The auditors found many areas of good practice particularly when it came to meter-reading and back billing.
From a consumer point of view, it looks as if the Energy UK's billing code framework is helping energy suppliers to identify issues before they became a serious problem. This is potentially stopping customers receiving bills in error and unnecessary stress that can inevitably cause. Notably, the suppliers that achieved the highest rating this year have also seen a reduction in billing complaints.
Energy UK Chief Executive Lawrence Slade said:
"The latest audit results are testament to the work suppliers are doing to improve the standard of service for their customers.
Energy suppliers are striving for improved conversations with their customers. It is important for customers to check their bills and to get in touch with their supplier if they have any questions."
Posted on June 16, 2016 at 01:40 PM