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Fuel Confusion

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Fuel Confusion

In the news this morning is something about Ofgem trying to get the utility suppliers to standardise their tariffs.  They believe that consumers are baffled by it all - well, they can count me in on that. 
My niece moved into a two bedroomed upstairs flat (well insulated) at the end of last year and fuel supplied by British Gas.  Setting up a DD, we asked for no more than £55 per month because she is on a very tight budget and in any case we thought it would balance out in the summer when she would not need to have heating on.  They have subsequently set it at nearly £90 per month!  Added to that she has had two 'red' bills when she is actually in credit according to her online account.  Telephoned after the first one and the lady could not understand it but confirmed that all was OK.  She would not reduce the DD however.  Second time on Saturday the lady was very apologetic and new exactly why the bill was being generated and sorted it all out.  Still would not reduce the DD either.
Tried to Scottish Power as had read on here that folk had saved money.  They wanted £75 pm.  Eon wanted £74 with a price fix for 3 years.  Put a quote in online and it came up with Online 5 Saver at £56 pm which is what I wanted in the first place.  She has to input the meter readings monthly and will adjust accordingly. Needless to say, we are changing to that at the end of April.
Was discussing this with my friend yesterday and she told me that a mutual friend of ours had just changed to British Gas with a quote of £55 per month and she lives in a very large (built circa 1965) 3 bedroomed semi-detached house.  Absolutely no comparison to my niece's small flat but they are asking for £35 per month less.  Can anyone tell me what is going on here?  Huh
I am totally befuddled by it all and I am sure that I can't be the only one.  I hope that Ofgem lick the power suppliers into shape because I just cannot see how it is possible to sort out who has the best prices.  As far as I can see the only clear way is to compare unit by unit.  I am not holding my breath for a resolution as they have it all their own way in order to rip us off and make millions in profit.
35 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 16,820
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

Yes, it is a muddle..... but that is how they like it.... something like over 350 different tariff rates, between 6 major suppliers... and none of them are 100% directly comparable with any other of the 5 suppliers... e.g. if you pay by DD it is cheaper per unit but if you pay quarterly and have no paperwork, but pay on line it is cheaper, if you only use a limited amount. (varying between company`s) etc.etc.etc..
there should be a Price Per Unit.... and any other "discounts" should be directly comparable to other company discounts...
Petrol is priced per litre, and the customer can see exactly what he is paying and can chose which "brand" to use very easily... why not gas and electric?
Community Veteran
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Registered: 24-09-2008

Re: Fuel Confusion

Agreed its confusing
To my way of thinking the Primary units (in my case the first 250 used each quarter) should be cheaper than the secondary units, not more expensive.
Quote from: shutter
... why not gas and electric?

or ISPs or ISAs
Community Veteran
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

I use Southern Electric and you just try to find their standard tariffs for electricity on their website - I gave up in the end and used UK Power comparison site instead
Moderator
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Registered: 14-04-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

I have a spreadsheet to try and estimate my next 'bill' but I have this to contend with.
Quote
How we work out your bill
For most of our tariffs, you pay an initial rate for the first 4,572 kWh of gas
and 728 kWh of electricity you use each year. You pay a lower rate for the
rest of the units you use (shown on your bill as ‘next’).
The first units are spread throughout the year as follows.
For electricity: two units a day throughout the year
For gas:
• 882 units a month from 1 November to the last day of February
• 272 units in March
• 271 units in April and in October
• 46 units a month from 1 May to 30 September

I'm about to try and get my head round it.
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nadger
Rising Star
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Registered: 13-04-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

I switched to Energy Smart 16 months ago so now pay exact bill each month. I do use BG's " estimate your bill" which has proved to be acurate.
Had phone call from BG, yesterday, and it's time for a meter change which I've booked for Thursday morning. Must pull out manual so I know how to relight boiler.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

I'm with EON and our charges go up on 1st April.  From that date I will be paying:
Gas: Primary units 7.102p.  Secondary units 3.247p. VAT inclusive.
Electricity: Primary units 18.369p. Secondary units 13.524p. VAT inclusive.
There is no standing charge and if the temperature drops to 0ºC I get a discount on my gas.  This doesn't add up to much but in the region of £40 a year.
johpal
Grafter
Posts: 550
Registered: 20-04-2008

Re: Fuel Confusion

I have to agree; trying to sort out these tariffs is difficult. Even trying to obtain accurate, updated tariffs from suppliers is difficult. My present supplier (first:utility) recently installed a 'smart' meter and gave me information about its new tariff available, instead of my present tariff. Even by their own example, I was better of continuing on my present tariff. However, on closer examination, the prices quoted in their example, bore no resemblance to those on my actual bill.
I am the obstinate, sceptical sort. I have my energy consumption records for the past 7 years in an Excel spreadsheet. Suppliers offering me quotes by 'cold calling', stopping me in supermarkets, etc. receive short shrift. I have built up numerous 'bonuses' with my supplier, worth more than £300, all of which will be paid out in November. Then the (increasingly) tiresome task of price comparisons will begin again. However, I believe I am better equipped than many to make an informed decision.
I should prefer to make my fuel payments in 12 equal instalments (fits in with my salary). However, during the Winter months, if your account 'debt' increases above, say, £50, the utility companies seem keen to increase the monthly payments, being unprepared, or impatient, for the deficit to be cleared in the Summer months when consumption reduces and the payments catch up. I believe they prefer to owe you money than the reverse.
I should hate to be seen as a defender of energy suppliers, their pricing methods, or their marketing tactics. However, if a consumer builds up a large deficit, then switches supplier, the 'loosing' supplier is exposed to greater risk of debt recovery. Perhaps in setting monthly DD amounts, energy companies first check your credit rating?
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Re: Fuel Confusion

Yes, they do a credit check and this is what we are waiting for now that we are changing to Eon.  And yes, they definitely want you in credit and I am pretty sure that this is why they set my niece's DD so high.  She has no payment history as this is her first home.  I can't think of any other reason why British Gas are being so obstinate about the DD amount - after all, how do they actually know what she is going to use?  She is going out most days and switching it off so it shouldn't be that bad.  She is on a very low income with a baby to care for and just cannot afford the amount they are asking for..
Conversely, the lady of whom I spoke earlier is in her seventies, well set up financially and is in the house all day and night.  They are obviously very keen to get her custom at a £55 pm quote.  I am beginning to think that they make it up as they go along.
Denzil
Grafter
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Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

Quote from: johpal
I believe they prefer to owe you money than the reverse.

They like that for the simple reason that overpaying for goods in advance of receiving them is great for the suppliers cashflow. Not so good for the customer's cashflow, though.
Moderator
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Registered: 14-04-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

Npower have just increased my monthly DD from £69 to £113 because the winter period put me in debit....which they don't like.
By July I will be substantially in credit...which they like.
Roll on my cavity wall insulation.
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johpal
Grafter
Posts: 550
Registered: 20-04-2008

Re: Fuel Confusion

Many suppliers seem to want their customers to pay monthly by direct debit and 'bill' quarterly. This is what I expected when the 'Which? Switch' utility comparison website directed me to first:utility. To my surprise, though paying by DD, I submit monthly readings (or did, until my smart meter was installed) and receive a bill each month, based on actual usage. Though not ideal, (I'd prefer to spread the cost equally over 12 months) being billed accurately monthly instead of quarterly removed some of the 'shock' element.
I don't want to act as an advertisement for first:utility, but their system of bonuses left me with a bill of £0.00 last November and paid more than 50% of my December bill. The same will likely occur this year. Perhaps a suitable alternative for some?
Community Veteran
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: Fuel Confusion

Don't rub it in - I don't have gas so can't use them.
Mind you i have just started logging my electricity usage every 10 minutes and have already spotted a small saving (only about 1kW but it was on all night)
Moderator
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Re: Fuel Confusion

Npower have switched to issuing statements twice a year instead of 3 monthly.
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Community Veteran
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Re: Fuel Confusion

Yes, same as EON.  What are the other companies charging per unit?