Don't switch off - switch energy supplier

Melanie Bien
Saturday 28 December 2013 05:16
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Companies eager to bury bad news often announce it on a Friday afternoon in the hope that journalists won't pick up on it before the weekend and that by Monday it will be old hat.

Last week London Electricity adopted just this sort of tactic, but this time on a Wednesday, when it chose Budget Day to announce hikes of 1.5 per cent in electricity prices and 4 per cent for gas customers from next month. Few papers covered it because they had more pressing news to contend with. But customers will certainly notice when their bills arrive next winter.

Some five million households whose energy is supplied either by London Electricity or the firms it owns (Seeboard and Sweb) will be affected by the price rises. Seeboard customers are likely to feel particularly aggrieved as it's their second rise in seven months.

London Electricity isn't alone: Powergen announced in February that it would be raising prices by 6.2 per cent from 1 May. Other suppliers are likely to follow, compounding the financial pain already felt in households affected by increases in national insurance and council tax.

The importance of shopping around and switching suppliers has never been so apparent. Unfortunately, there have been problems in changing from one fuel provider to another: energywatch, the gas and electricity watchdog, receives more than 50,000 complaints each year from consumers who say they have been let down when they try to transfer.

However, it is still worth making the effort, particularly as an industry summit is planned for June to look at ways of streamlining the transfer system.

The temptation may be to leave all thoughts of switching until the winter because you won't need the heating on much in the coming months. But there is a danger that by then you will have forgotten all about it.

The easiest way to find the cheapest deal is to use the internet. A number of sites, such as uSwitch.com, let you input the name of your current supplier, along with how much gas or electricity you use. The online calculator will then work out whether you could save money by switching.

Simply Energy (0800 781 1212) will provide the same service over the phone and arrange for you to switch provider as well.

m.bien@independent.co.uk

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