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The Hi-Tech Investor: It's a gas on the internet

Amerada, one of the companies that sells gas to households in competition with British Gas, has launched Energy Online, an internet- only tariff that offers extra savings on its ordinary charges.

According to the company's figures, Amerada's deal will save the average household pounds 76 a year against the British Gas Standard Credit Tariff. The saving is actually rather less for British Gas customers who pay by monthly direct debit.

The idea is that customers do the administration through the Amerada website, saving the company money and removing door-to-door sales.

The website has another advantage: anyone thinking of switching can put in their own meter readings to see how much they would pay with Amerada. This is far more meaningful than the "average" figures companies usually quote in their sales literature.

Powergen is another company promising energy savings on the internet. In this case, making the most of the deal means switching both energy suppliers and internet service provider (ISP).

Households using the internet to switch their energy to Powergen qualify for pounds 30 cash back (pounds 15 in the East Midlands). Switching to Powergen's ISP, Surf & Save, should reduce bills still further. Powergen gives energy credits to its power customers who use Surf & Save.

Like all free ISPs, Powergen takes a share of the cost of internet phone calls to fund its operation and the rebate to its power users. Unfortunately, it's not possible to stay online long enough to wipe out energy bills altogether. And other internet services such as AOL and Claranet have better deals for heavy net users.

Amerada, www. amerada.co.uk; Powergen, www.pgen.net or 0800 169 6911 for an internet CD.

Cover online

Insurancewide.com comes to the online insurance market promising competitive cover and an easy-to-use service for claims. The company is starting with motor and travel insurance and car breakdown cover. There are plans to add more policies next year.

First impressions suggest that the service is quick and efficient with some neat features: put in your car registration and the site finds the make and model from its database and fills in all the details.

Insurancewide claims that it won't "cherry pick" the least risky drivers, but its quote for a London driver with a middle-sized car was over pounds 600: pounds 200 more than a policy from a conventional insurance broker. So city dwellers, in particular, should check a few other companies too before parting with cash.

Insurancewide: www.insurancewide.com

NB: Moneysupermarket, the subject of last week's column, can be found at moneysupermarket.com

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at: Hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com