Hoovers, being, um, hoovered up

September 19th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

bosch vacuum 300x300 Hoovers, being, um, hoovered upVacuum cleaner sales went mental last month as people rushed to get their machines ahead of an EU ban. We did tell you about it, should you have missed out on the goldrush.

The ban on vacs with motors higher than 1,600 watts came in to make Britain a more energy-efficient nation.

Albeit one that will now be hoovering twice as much, so, yeah, WELL DONE EVERYONE CONCERNED.

Tesco alone have said that they’ve had a 44% rise in automated cleaning solution products, and stores selling that sort of thing in general, have sold 3.9% more than August 2013.

The Office for National Statistics said the surge helped boost retail figures.

“Feedback from retailers suggested that sales were increased as consumers sought to buy high powered vacuum cleaners before the EU energy saving regulation came into force at the end of August.” said one of them.

Sales of ­household goods leapt 12.7%. Furniture sales surged 23.4% year-on-year, the biggest increase since records began in 1988.

Powerful hoovers – sucking us all out of this recession.

Who is the worst company in the UK?

September 17th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Who is the worst company in the UK? Like clockwork, npower are here with their latest unsavoury accolade – they’ve capped off a dismal year by being named the worst company in the UK, replacing Ryanair who were the previous owners of the ‘Worst’ title.

Which!!! have been collating their annual customer service rankings for the UK’s 100 biggest brands and npower came out as the absolute pits.

Other energy companies featured prominently too, with ScottishPower going from 62nd place to 99th, which just happens to be the biggest drop of any of the brands featured.

Both companies have been blaming the fact that they’ve got new computer systems, which means that customers have been sent fantastically incorrect bills, not had bills at all, seen their complaints vanishing and queries taking months to be sorted out.

As previously reported, npower have been so poor that they’ve been separated from the rest of the class and been forced to sit on a special table with Ofgem and put back on pencil.

Ofgem set npower a series of targets for clearing a swathe of problems which were affecting 400,000 customers. They were threatened with a ban on all telesales and npower just sneaked their targets. EDF Energy are 81st in the table, and British Gas and E.On were joint 86th, while SSE sat in 94th place.

So which companies are any cop, sitting pretty at the top of the table? First Direct was ranked 1st and John Lewis and Lakeland did rather well also.

An npower spokesman said: “We’re determined to improve and we’re already making progress. Since this survey was carried out we’ve reduced the number of late bills by over 75%, and the number of complaints we received by nearly 30%. However, we know we still have a long way to go before we can reach the top spot and we’re continuing to focus all of our efforts in this area.”

So, npower aren’t very good and neither are their energy competitors. Next week, we’ll bring you the news of the Pope’s religious preferences and confirm whether or not bears go to the toilet in woodland areas.

energy Energy customers to save very little money for expensive smart metersEnergy customers are looking at getting a £215 bill for the installation of smart meters, but at least they’ll all start saving money right?

Well, customers will save around 3% on their average annual bill by 2030.

The Commons public accounts select committee reckon that this smart meter rollout will cost £10.6 billion for the actual meters, with households paying for the £11 annual running costs, plus the £215 cost of installation.

The committee predicts that consumers will save just 2% on an average annual bill of £1,328 until 2020, rising to £43 a year, or 3% by 2030. Of course, this is only dependent on whether customers are savvy enough to cut their energy consumption.

Who knows what will be going on in 2030? You can bet that the new meters will be redundant and out of date by then. Still, that’s not stopping anyone.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change reckon that households will save £18.5 billion over 20 years if they can see how much their energy is costing them. They overestimate how many people want to sit and gawp at an energy meter after they’ve finished work.

In addition to that, recent cuts to wholesale energy costs haven’t been passed on by the Big Six, so looking at an energy meter will inevitably make you hate your provider more.

Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, said: ‘The costs of installing 53 million smart meters will be borne by consumers through their energy bills. It will cost around £215 per home or small business over the next 15 years to install the meters – an additional cost people can ill afford.”

“Despite consumers footing the bill, they can on average make a saving of only 2% on the average annual bill of £1,328 until 2020. Even this is conditional on consumers changing their behaviour and cutting their energy use. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is relying on the consumer becoming more “savvy” in making decisions about using energy.”

“The department is depending heavily on assumed competition in the energy industry to control costs and deliver benefits. Relying on market forces to keep costs down may not be enough on its own to protect consumers. This is something energy companies don’t have a great track record on. Ofgem’s referral of the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority reflected serious concerns about the lack
of real competition in the industry.”

The Big Six to return £153m to overpaying customers

September 10th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

energy The Big Six to return £153m to overpaying customersThe Big Six energy companies have launched an initiative which aims to give former customers £153m back that’s been sitting in their coffers as unclaimed credit from closed accounts.

The scheme is called MyEnergyCredit and has been launched by Energy UK and comes about thanks to a demand from Ofgem back in February.

Energy UK said that they want customers who have switched suppliers or moved home without leaving a forwarding address to get in touch with their old company if they suspect that they left money in an old account.

So basically, the initiative is: We’ve been sitting on your money for no reason so would you come and get it because we couldn’t be arsed giving it you back at the time.

That said, Energy UK announced changes to try and stop this from happening in the future, but as of now, there’s going to be a two-year deadline for collection of credit. If you don’t claim it, they’ll keep it. The Big Six say they’ll give the money to vulnerable customers, but don’t hold your breath.

Energy UK’s chief executive Angela Knight said: “We are urging former customers to come forward and make a claim. Customers who think they haven’t left a forwarding address or a final meter reading when they moved or switched should contact their old supplier.”

“The web site myenergycredit.com will help you do this. Inevitably, there will be some former customers who will not be found and so the major suppliers are announcing what will happen to credit balances from now on.”

“In future, after two years, the credit balance will be used to help vulnerable customers – and suppliers will make it very clear what is happening.

“By 2018, these new arrangements are expected to add up to around £65m of help to those in difficulties. The suppliers will kick start this process now by donating £38m for the first two years combined.”

Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: “Today’s industry announcement is an encouraging first step by the six largest energy companies to address Ofgem’s call to reunite customers with their cash. It is good news for consumers and if you think you could be owed money we recommend that you contact your previous supplier.”

“This issue is part of a wider challenge of delivering good customer service that the industry must crack if they are to rebuild customer trust and confidence. Failure to deliver on the initiatives announced today could trigger further action by Ofgem, including enforcement.”

McDonald’s: now accepting rubbish

September 5th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Sweden’s McDonald’s have come up with a green festival campaign. The Big Mac hitmakers are now accepting empty cans in exchange for burger-based treats.

Regarder.

mcdonald binbag 500x333 McDonalds: now accepting rubbish

In stores mainly around festival areas and green spaces, they are now accepting cards, cash and cans.

And so that collectors can have a handy guide as to working out the “exchange rate”, McDonald’s have provided bin bags with illustrations um, illustrating them.

For ten cans, you “can” HAHAHA have a hamburger.

However, anyone who has been to Sweden will know that everywhere is quite pricey, so you’d be better off just buying McDonalds instead, but hey – the planet and all that.

Now, who knows anything about Maccies and deforestation?

Npower are blitzing your complaints

September 4th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Npower are blitzing your complaintsnpower are now allowed to continue making telesales calls to everyone after they cleared enough late bills, after Ofgem set them a target. The regulator basically said ‘sort that backlog out or we’re taking your mobile off you, and you can have it back at the end of term.’

The company had a backlog of 96,700  late bills at the end of August. Ofgem had ordered them to get below 100,000, as well as launching an investigation into the energy company. The only good thing about this, is that a load of staff might have got some lovely overtime.

While npower are allowed to make telesales calls, Ofgem haven’t called off the investigation. There’s still the issue of the woeful new billing system which initially saw npower getting three times the amount of complaints than the next company.

Now, the energy firm assure everyone that there’s only 62,000 customers awaiting late bills.

Roger Hattam, npower’s domestic retail director, said: “I’m pleased that we have met our commitment made in June to reach our billing performance target. We’re now billing over 98% of customers on time. However, the journey doesn’t stop here as we’re working hard to make even more improvements.”

Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement said: “Ofgem is encouraged to see that npower has met our targets aimed at reducing late bills and we note their progress on reducing complaint numbers. But this is only a first step to turning round their customer service and billing performance. We will monitor their progress and continue our investigation into the reasons why npower’s problems occurred.”

lightswitch 300x225 51% of people havent switched anything in the last yearWe all know that switching is often a valuable pastime. Switching banks, energy providers and insurers is all the rage these days, as everyone knows you only get the best deals by being totally disloyal.

Or perhaps everyone doesn’t know. New research shows that over half of UK adults haven’t switched any of the 10 most common financial products in the last 12 months and that estimated 10 million consumers (21%) have never switched anything.

Gocompare.com surveyed just over 2,000 UK adults, was commissioned by comparison website Gocompare.com, and revealed that in the last 12 months:

“More people switched car insurance (16%) than any other financial product, but 30% have stayed with the same car insurer for over three years

Despite rising energy prices and energy switching being all over the news and the interwebs, only 15% had changed provider to get a better deal, with a massive 60% having had the same energy provider for over three years.

13% had switched their home insurance, but less than ten percent of responders had switched their current account (7%), their credit card (5%) or their mortgage (2%) in the last year.”

It was a similar story for the never-switchers. The charts of never switched products is topped by bank accounts at number one, down to car insurance at number ten. The full list is:

1. Bank accounts (35% never switched)
2. Mortgages (28%)
3. Broadband (25%)
4. ISA/savings  (24%)
5. Landline phone (23%)
5. Mobile phone (23%)
7. Credit card (22%)
8. Energy supplier (16%)
9. Home insurance (14%)
10. Car insurance (12%)

The lack of switching is surprising given the survey also asked whether consumers felt better or worse off than they did a year ago. Almost a third (29%) of UK adults say they feel worse off now compared to a year ago, with 17% admitting that they are seriously worried about the state of their finances. Around half (54%) said things were about the same.

Claire Peate, customer insight manager at Gocompare.com, said: “While many people have become committed comparers, switchers and savers – our research suggests that millions could still be paying more than they need to by sticking with their existing providers.  But, in our experience, a common reward for loyalty is a higher price.  So shop around for the best deals and if your existing provider seems expensive, switch.”

But should we really bother with the people who never have, and in all likelihood, never will switch? Doesn’t that leave better deals for the rest of us who can be bothered to shop around?

All I want for Christmas is no power cuts

September 3rd, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

day2energy bkgd2 660x852 232x300 All I want for Christmas is no power cutsWinter may not be such a wonderland with possible power cuts.

That’s the vibe The National Grid are giving out, as they’ve asked electricity suppliers to indicate how much more spare capacity they have for peak times this Winter.

It wants to be sure that it can muster through each side of Christmas without plunging us all into blackouts.

This scheme has been brought forward by a year, as the Grid have been coping with plant repairs, fires and closures of main power stations.

The idea that the country could face power cuts is going to put the shit up the government, who are already aware that a less-than-fully operational power generation is likely to cause issues.

As part of the greener incentives brought in, new power plants are taking their sweet time to get up to full capacity, while older, more polluting plants become decommissioned.

The jolly sounding Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of UK market operations, reckons: ”At this stage we don’t know if these reserve services will be needed, but they could provide an additional safeguard.”

Power generators would have to prove they’d be available to provide additional electricity between 7am and 9pm from November to February, the months with the highest demand for the likes of lights and heating.

Still, at least bored couples can get off with each other during Christmas powercuts, which means even more September babies, eh?

Buy more stuff when you recycle

September 1st, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Recycling Mixed Containers Buy more stuff when you recycleYou can receive shopping vouchers each time you recycle!

A new scheme, based on loyalty rewards and vouchers, is going to reward greener households. those who actually separate stuff and that.

A £5 million fund has been set up to reward the greenest, in a bid to increase recycling rates in England.

Councils that offer weekly bin emptying services, instead of fortnightly, can bid for a share of the cash to increase their recycling rates by providing the incentives to those who recycle.

The scheme was originally piloted back in 2010, and was found to be quite the success with recycling rates increasing by 35%.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, that one off the telly, said: “Rewards for recycling show how working with families can deliver environmental benefits without the draconian approach of punishing people and leaving out smelly rubbish.”

“Councils with fortnightly collections will not receive government funding and are short-changing their residents with an inferior service.”

The closing date for bids is November 7th, and those who’ve been the most successful will be unveiled in January.

EDF to pay out £3 million in compensation

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

EDF 280 549370a EDF to pay out £3 million in compensationEDF Energy have been gits and Ofgem has slapped their legs by ordering them to pay £3 million in compensation to benefit “vulnerable customers” after they’d been found guilty of breaching complaint handling rules.

The investigation followed an increase of more than 30% in the levels of complaints recorded by the company during the the introduction of a new IT system in 2011.

Ofgem found that, between May 2011 and January 2012, EDF didn’t have sufficient or correct procedures in place to adequately deal with, process, record and receive, all complaints in accordance with handling rules.

In English, that means customers had unacceptably long waiting times when calling them to tell EDF they are rubbish.

And if you wanted them to follow up your complaint, that wasn’t happening either.

When customers finally got through, EDF didn’t even make a record of all the required details for the complaints. Basically, customers may as well stuck their hand out of the window and tried to finger the moon.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner for enforcement, said: “EDF Energy failed to have sufficiently robust processes in place when they introduced a new IT system and this led to the unacceptable handling of complaints. Their commitment to putting things right and paying £3m to the Citizens Advice Energy Best Deal Extra scheme and the Plymouth Citizen Advice Bureau’s Debt Helpline to benefit vulnerable customers is a step in the right direction to rebuilding consumer trust.”

energy Labour say theyre going rough up the energy companiesThe licences that energy companies have, so they can do business, could be revoked by a new regulating body who are there to protect the interests of the public.

That sounds alright doesn’t it? Sadly, this won’t ever happen because Labour are doing that thing where they say ‘when we get in power, we’re going to do all this amazing stuff’, when they know that they won’t get voted in, so they don’t have to actually implement anything.

They might as well say: ‘Under a Labour government, honest, hard working people can be certain that each town and city will have a unicorn mayor that shits £50 notes for everyone and each home will be fitted with a milkshake tap.’

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said the current Government had helped to create a “broken energy market”.

She reckons that Labour will create a tough new regulator who will manhandle power suppliers and have the ability to cancel energy firms’ licences if they repeatedly commit the most “serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers”.

Flint is obviously playing to the gallery here, as everyone knows that we’re all irritated by the way the energy companies are currently doing their business thanks to crappy customer service, mis-selling, whacking prices up when they feel like it and all the rest.

Ofgem have issued 30 fines since 2001, which total in advance of £87m. That’s a lot of money to us, but presumably, energy firms have that kind of money down the back of the sofa in loose change.

Flint says that Labour’s reforms would see the regulator producing an annual scorecard for energy suppliers, reporting on the firms’ performance and identifying problem areas.

“The public have a right to be treated fairly by energy companies,” she said. ”Where firms fail to meet these standards, there must be tough and decisive action. Too often energy companies seem to view the regulator’s fines as a cost of doing business – not as a warning to get their act together.”

“Of course consumers must be compensated – but if energy companies persist in mistreating their customers they must know their licence could be on the line.”

Petrol prices down for the bank holiday

August 19th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

asda petrol Petrol prices down for the bank holidayIt’s the last bank holiday before Christmas, so to celebrate, supermarkets have cut petrol prices by up to 2p a litre and diesel by 1p!

Asda kicked it off when they bugled that they’d be cutting their prices today (Tuesday), capping petrol at 124.7p a litre and diesel at 128.7p, which is the lowest the chain have had since January 2011.

Then Sainsburys and Tesco both chipped in by saying they’d be reducing their prices on petrol and diesel too, although neither chain has a national price cap.

Supermarkets being supermarkets, they’ve always had the chance to offer cheaper deals for the driver, especially when tied up in points and rewards and brand loyalty type stuff.

However this move has been seen as a response to the otherwise slightly dearer independents, according to Paul Watters, AA’s head of public affairs

“We have seen competitive independent retailers east of London selling petrol as low as 125.9p a litre recently, which heralded a more general move by Asda,” he said. “With its national pricing policy, that lower pricing will be spread to drivers across the UK and will spur other retailers to follow.”

“However, depressed demand is also a major influence as families in the UK, Europe and the US continue to struggle with family finances. Although pump price movements have been relatively benign this year, the trauma of price spikes from 2011 into 2013 continues to haunt drivers.”

According to the AA, the average price across the UK yesterday was 129.71p a litre, and diesel was 133.74p.

The other supermarkets are set to follow, because that’s what they do.

Npower lose both customers and cash

August 15th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

npower logo Npower lose both customers and cashNpower has shed 62,000 of household customers in the last year.

That’s a bit careless.

The troubled energy supplier also reported a 38% drop in profit for the first six months of the year.

Profit before tax and interest payments on debt fell to £109m, or about £14 per customer, from £176m last year, npower said.

Understandably, the firm is spending more on improving its customer service, while costs of the government’s energy efficiency scheme have risen.

There’s also a worry that coal and gas stations may be shut down as low wholesale prices are making them run at a loss.

Npower also blamed the mild weather and one-off factors for the drop in profits to 2.27bn euros (£1.8bn), which is a little bit daft seeing as it is actually Summer and it is supposed to be the time people tend to lay off the radiator action.

They have until the end of the month to sort out its billing problems or it will be forced to stop all telephone sales to new customers. Apparently, their challenge for its customer services is to ‘become a more human interface while remaining compliant’.

Well, using language like ‘interface’ and ‘compliant’ is really going to help there, pal.

energy Will the Government imprison energy fiddlers?The Government are getting hardcore on those who fiddle and fix energy pricing.

Possible things that face anyone being wretched with gas and electricity, include up to two years in prison.

At the moment, energy regulators can investigate and throw fines at the rule breachers, but can’t throw them in the clink.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Government want to start getting tougher on those who abuse the system.

The new sanctions should come into being next Spring after a consultation period and parliamentary approval.

Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said: “Manipulating the energy market is absolutely unacceptable, and these proposals provide a much stronger deterrent – more in line with the approach taken in the financial markets.”

“At the moment all we can do is fine (the perpetrators) and that’s not strong enough”.

Under the new rules, it would be a criminal offence to fix the price of energy at an artificial level or use insider information to buy or sell energy on the wholesale market. It would also be an offence to make misleading claims or conceal facts about wholesale energy prices to manipulate the market, especially if it could affect competition.

The UK’s energy companies are being encouraged to improve their transparency (or, to put it bluntly, stop being a bunch of murky herberts), after Ofgem started an industry review last month.

Rachel Fletcher of Ofgem chips in with: “We want the strongest possible deterrents in place to guard against market manipulation and insider trading. We put forward the case to government for greater powers to take action if needed, and we welcome this consultation.”

The competition watchdog will unleash a final report based on its findings at the end of next year.

energy Customers waving cheerio to big six energy companiesTwo million customers have said “see ya!” to the UK energy market’s big six companies, and opting for smaller and cheaper companies.

Independent figures claim to show droves of households switching their energy supplier as the price of energy carries on going up.

Approximately 100,000 customers a month have swapped over from the big boys to an indie since last June. Snubbing the likes of npower, SSE, EDF, E.ON, Scottish Power and British Gas.

And according to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 1.3 million customers and 866,000 gas customers have changed suppliers in the last three months of 2013.

And as if to rub it in, by switching his gas and electricity supplier to a company exempt from the charges slapped on domestic bills, Energy Secretary Ed Davey  is now spared from paying the average £112-a-year green duty added to most domestic bills after he moved his account to a firm that does not have to pay it.

Maybe he should be doing something about stopping the Big Six being arseholes then, eh readers?