SSE joins in with the energy price cuts

January 26th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

sse SSE joins in with the energy price cutsSSE have become the latest energy company to announce a price cut.

The company become the fifth of ‘The Big Six’ energy firms to have announced a reduction in their price cuts, following recent moves by the likes of E.On, British Gas, Scottish Power and Npower.

Now they’re all staring at EDF to follow suit.

SSE will cut domestic gas prices by 4.1% from 30th April, which should save their average households around £28 a year. Whoop. They’ll be mindful that they’ve got to win people over after it was revealed that Ofgem are investigating them.

SSE – who have around 8.7 million customers – have also said it would extend its guarantee not to increase its gas and electricity prices until July 2016, and that wholesale energy costs now make up “less than half of the typical household energy bill”.

Steve Forbes, SSE’s director of GB Domestic, said: “We were the only supplier to freeze prices and we promised we would cut them if we could; now we’re delivering on that promise with an average £28 reduction in gas bills.”

“There are significant other costs within energy bills, including those relating to government-sponsored environmental and social policies and the roll-out of smart meters.”

Chipping in, Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE’s chief executive, said: “Customers are at the heart of SSE’s business, and our work to secure their energy supplies in wholesale markets last spring enabled us to guarantee that prices would not increase until at least January 2016, showing we are committed to treating all of our customers fairly and to giving them stable prices over the long-term.”

“We’re being true to that commitment with a 4.1% reduction in the typical gas bill and an extended guarantee meaning gas and electricity prices won’t go up before July 2016 at the earliest.

SSE reckon the prolonged period of mild weather to 31 December 2014 meant that average consumption of electricity was estimated to have fallen by 5.6% while average consumption of gas dropped by almost 16%.

This ongoing set of price tumbles is responding to politicians and general “stop charging so much” level headed humans as well as due to the reduction in oil and gas prices. For that reason, the energy industry is undergoing a full scale inquiry from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the way it operates. The CMA inquiry is expected to report its provisional findings in May or June.

Npower cut prices, but everyone still hates them

January 23rd, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

article 1725351 07264249000005DC 817 468x286 300x183 Npower cut prices, but everyone still hates themA number of energy companies are reducing their prices, and now Npower, after everyone told them that their customer service was beyond woeful, is going to cut their standard gas tariff in the UK by an average of 5.1% from 16th February.

In plain language, you’re going to save around £35 a year if you’re one of their customers.

Thus far, this is the biggest cut announced by a supplier after wholesale prices fell by 20%, which also saw E.On and Scottish Power dropping your bills.

After steady price hikes for years, all of these companies could’ve dropped their prices by greater amounts, but we’ll all have to take what we can get from this absolute shower.

“If there are further falls in wholesale prices, we will keep these under review to see if we can cut further,” prattled Npower chief executive Paul Massara.

Of course you will Npower. We’ve got every faith in you to do the right thing for customers. Either way,

Which are the worst energy companies?

January 22nd, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Which are the worst energy companies?Which!!! have been trying to find out which is the worst of the energy providers and, in a move that will surprise precisely no-one, Npower have been awarded the dubious honour.

The energy company have been annoying everyone with major, major problems with their billing and came bottom the Which!!! customer satisfaction survey for the fourth year running. They’ve got an overall satisfaction score of a meagre 35%.

They’re past caring these days aren’t they? It is almost like complaining about them is just white noise to them and they’ve started to enjoy it and are now trolling everyone.

ScottishPower wasn’t too far behind, again, haunted by billing cock-ups, and was second worst with a score of 41%. Both companies are under investigation by Ofgem for their abject performance, being threatened with sales bans unless they get through their complaints backlogs. Not that they seem to care one jot as The Big Six are completely oblivious to… well… everything.

Roger Hattam, Npower’s director for its domestic retail business, said: “We’re disappointed with the results. We value all feedback and have already made significant improvements to how we look after our customers.” Meanwhile, a ScottishPower spokesperson said: “Last year all our customer accounts were migrated on to a new £200 million customer service IT system, and although this will deliver real benefits in the long-term, the installation process has been challenging. The vast majority of accounts have been transferred successfully, but unfortunately the installation of the new systems has meant we have not been able to provide the level of service our customers expect.”

Both of those statements came from a press release generator by the sounds of it.

So who came top of the pile? Green energy supplier Ecotricity had an approval rating of 85%, which is great for them.

Year on year, the Big Six are performing poorly and getting their arses handed to them by smaller companies – is it time we all started moving away to the underdogs? At least the smaller companies don’t wait for the results of competition inquiries and surveys to start aiming for good service.

sse SSE under investigation and Ofgem announce price comparison rulesSSE, the energy company, are looking down the barrel of an investigation by Ofgem over suspicions that they restricted competition in the electricity market.

The watchdog are going to be looking at the way housing developments and other sites who have not yet been connected to the grid choose where they get their power from. It looks like, although far from confirmed, that someone’s been up to no good.

Ofgem wants to increase competition in this particular market but had found evidence that SSE breached competition law, so they want to look into the whether or not the energy firm put their rivals at a disadvantage.

This follows a separate announcement from the regulator, who published new rules for price comparison websites who must now meet tighter standards on how they relay their tariffs. These new rules come under the woolly name of ‘the confidence code’ and has been put together to ensure customers can trust that deals aren’t being hidden by price comparison sites.

Ofgem said that, from now on, sites are going to have to show the companies with who they have commission arrangements with, in a  prominent fashion. They’ll also have to make it clear that they earn commission on certain tariffs.

Comparison sites have to meet these rules by the end of March or they’ll be in all manner of trouble.

As well as that, as we mentioned yesterday, Ofgem will continue to keep an eye on the Big Six energy suppliers to make sure they’re not ripping everyone off. The regulator wants to improve competitiveness, so we could be seeing more prominence from smaller suppliers with potentially better deals in 2015.

Maxine Frerk, Ofgem’s senior partner for distribution, said: “We are requiring electricity network companies to work quickly to resolve the issues identified in the connections market, to reduce the hassle of getting connected to the grid and help lower costs for customers. We are determined to ensure this part of the energy market works in customers’ interest and will use the full range of our powers to do so.”

SSE said: “SSE acknowledges Ofgem’s announcement of an investigation into its distribution business’s provision of electricity connections services in central southern England. SSE will co-operate fully with the investigating authorities and will not make any further comment until the investigation is completed.”

petrol Falling petrol prices could put inflation below zeroThe ongoing plunge of prices at Britain’s petrol pumps could pull inflation below zero before the next general election. Handy that.

According to forecasters, the Ernst & Young Item Club falling prices in shops and forecourts in the early part of this year, would be a “shot in the spending arm”.

The Item Club, whose predictions are based on the Treasury’s economic model, says the fall in oil price is acting as the catalyst.

Which arm is your spending arm? It’s a question we’ve asked for years.

Crude oil prices have halved since last summer and inflation in the UK has declined sharply as a result, hitting just 0.5% in December.

Item’s Peter Spencer reckons that it will all help in boosting economic growth, which he expects to be 2.9% in 2015. “Not every economy will be a winner from oil prices collapsing, but the UK certainly is,” he said.

Hurrah!

British Gas to reduce your bills

January 19th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

british gas British Gas to reduce your billsBritish Gas have graciously announced that they’re going to cut household gas prices by 5% as of next month. Now, of course, if they hadn’t been wildly putting everyone’s bills up for years, everyone would be happy, but forgive us all if we don’t take to the street, cheering.

The Centrica owned energy dispenser said that this will benefit 6.8 million customers, and in real money, will reduce the average yearly bill by £37.

The cut will apply from 27th February has come about because of a fall in wholesale gas prices and British Gas said that they will be keeping prices under review “for further movements up or down”. Don’t hold your breath, basically.

Naturally, this announcement from British Gas comes after E.On dropped their prices. With increased pressure from all sides of the political spectrum toward Big Six pricing, there may be more, especially with the threat of new powers being proposed to allow Ofgem to kick energy companies into shape.

With two companies dropping their prices, that still means there’s four to go who need to pass on the saving to their customers. They have some leeway too, because the fall in wholesale costs is around 20%, which means that the savings made with E.On and British Gas are relatively small, so some new customers could be won over if a rival passing on greater savings.

E.On cuts prices, which we didn’t see coming

January 13th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

eon energy bulb 300x184 E.On cuts prices, which we didnt see comingNo sooner had we said that energy companies wouldn’t be cutting their prices, along come E.On to make us look like damned fools.

E.On is the first of the Big Six who have cut their prices, thanks to falling wholesale costs. They’ve said that there’ll be a 3.5% reduction in their standard gas tariff. That’s expected to save around 2 million households £24 on a typical annual bill. It isn’t much, but it is better than a punt in the gusset.

The good thing here, is that E.On’s actions will put pressure on the competition, which means the other five companies in the Big Six will have to look at following suit now that wholesale gas prices are 27% lower in 2015 than they were last year.

Of course, last week the Treasury said that they’d be investigating energy companies to find out why prices had not fallen despite the lower wholesale costs. The government should’ve been looking into energy prices years ago, but obviously, now there’s an election coming up, they’ve decided they care.

There’s also going to be a Commons vote this week which will look at giving Ofgem new powers to force energy companies hands when it comes to how much they charge customers.

Given the size of the drop in wholesale prices, E.On’s price drop is rather underwhelming, but for now, it is better than nothing.

energy Energy companies unlikely to cut prices anytime soonIt’s looking unlikely that any Britain’s energy retailers are going to offer any price cuts before the General Election.

This is to give a reality check and throws general shade at the various political parties, and their flimsy promises on energy price freezes, such as Miliband’s claim that Labour would impose a 20-month price freeze.

According to Sky News, several major suppliers will tell ministers that the timeframe horizons which they set tariffs render a pre-election cut “illogical and impractical” despite the falling oil price and declining cost of wholesale gas.

While they’re about it, they plan to respond to a letter from Matthew Hancock, the Business, Energy and Enterprise Minister, who wrote to the six companies this weekend to demand that prices should be slashed.

As well as wishing them a Happy New Year, highlights of his missive see him saying: “Wholesale gas prices have been falling for months, and are now 30% lower than this time last year.”

“In a competitive market, I would have expected energy suppliers to cut bills as a result of these low wholesale prices. Independent suppliers have done precisely this. However, larger energy suppliers have failed to cut prices across all their tariffs”

The big six energy companies – British Gas, EDF Energy, EON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE – have said that Miliband’s pledge could make it commercially risky to cut prices.

According to an unnamed executive – so we’ll christen him as Mr Biscuits for this exercise – at one of the energy companies “We are taking pricing decisions now that may have to last for two years. Anything could happen to wholesale prices during that period which would make supplying energy at lower levels than today wholly uneconomic.”

Downing Street sources said on Saturday that Hancock’s letter had been approved by both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

George Osborne this week vowed to watch utilities and fuel retailers “like a hawk” (which you could imagine, because he looks mildly inhuman anyway) to ensure that the benefits of lower oil prices were being passed on to consumers.

It seems like the whole cost of living thing is going to be a key part of the election campaign, which would be nice, seeing as everything has become unaffordable and ridiculous.

coffee cup 200x300 New EU energy rules could save you money, or ruin your coffeeSo it’s 2015 and already the EU is meddling with stuff in our homes. Happy New Year! New EU directives on energy effficiency and climate change came into force yesterday, aimed at saving us money every year in energy costs and saving the planet at the same time. Put like that it doesn’t sound so bad, so it probably depends on whether you are a coffee drinker or not…

There are a couple of types of new rules- now energy efficiency labels (the stickers that tell you if your potential new appliance is an A grade or a G grade) must now also be available online, which also sounds emminently sensible in these modern times of online shopping. The worst energy-offending products will also be banned from sale in the name of saving energy by forcing people to make slightly better energy-efficient choices.

But what is getting people’s goat (already) is the effect on certain types of appliance that remain on most or all of the time. From now on, new networked devices like routers, hubs, modems, connected or smart televisions and printers should be able to switch automatically into a low power standby mode if no main task is performed. The European Commission claims that many gadgets are connected to the internet 24 hours a day, while homeowners are asleep or out of the house, costing an extra extravagance of around £32 a year.

And while perhaps even Europhobes can see the benefit of reducing energy usage while you’re not actually using it, what about when those Eurocrats start messing with your coffee?

In an attempt to improve energy efficiency, filter coffee machines must now switch off after five minutes of percolating to prevent electricty waste. For espresso machines, the rules do not apply while they are grinding, frothing milk, steaming or brewing, but new machines will have to switch off automatically after 30 minutes and settings to keep cup warm will turn off after one hour. Domestic drip-filter coffee machines with insulated jugs – to keep the coffee warm- must switch off after five minutes.

Marylyn Haines Evans, public affairs chairwoman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said: “Nobody likes to waste energy, and at a time when energy bills are increasing, having appliances designed to be sparing with electricity is definitely a good thing for your household finances.Coffee is one of the many products threatened by climate change, so it’s also good to know that when you’re making a cup, you’re doing your bit to cut down on carbon emissions too.”

“With a better designed appliance you can enjoy a coffee without the bitter taste of wasting energy or adding unnecessarily to the climate problem” she finished, pleased with her own witticism.

So what do you think? Is this actual well-meaningness aimed at saving money and the planet with a slight side effect on certain groups or is this just EU meddling of the highest order?

electricity meter 300x187 Energy customers should be given a debt holidayCitizens Advice Bureau have said that ten million householders who use pre-payment energy meters should be given a debt “holiday”.

Unlike other customers, those with pre-payment meters cannot spread their payments throughout the year, which is well arse. Therefore they end up spending way more than those who don’t do the meters.

Scottish Power have stepped up and said it had already introduced such a scheme last year, but the CAB reckons it should be a thing throughout the industry.

“A debt holiday would be a Christmas bonus for pre-pay customers,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice. ”Delaying payments for debts will mean those people struggling to afford heat and light don’t have to make severe cut-backs,” she said.

The Citizens Advice have said that during 2014 there was a 66% increase in the number of people seeking online help for paying their bills.

And according to figures from the regulator, Ofgem, shows that 80% of households having payment meters installed are already in debt. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an energy company to do something nice though…

So with ‘news’ that only a quarter of us trust our energy supplier, just how bad are the energy suppliers at looking after customer? And are the smaller, friendlier firms actually any better than the big bad Big Six?

One way that commitment to existing customers (over scrabbling for new ones) can be measured is the resources spent on customer care over sales- using the time taken to answer a customer service call over a sales call. Helpfully, the good eggs over at Which!!! have already done this for us and have compiled a table of the best and worst offenders in the length of time to answer a customer service call stakes.

Taking half an hour to answer call, the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel belong to Big 6 Scottish Power, who blamed a new IT system and a need for more staff for their shocking performance, which didn’t stop them answering a sales call in just 49 seconds, which earns them a second top prize for the worst customer service:sales call ratio. However, the second longest customer service call waiting time was found at the door of friendly smaller company First Utility at a little under 19 minutes, who recently came out as having finalised their faster switching service earlier than required- perhaps they should have employed those resources on looking after the people who had already switched first.

which energy calls 454x500 The best and worst energy firms for customer service  is smaller necessarily better?

The shortest call times were found at Ebico, which has managed to answer calls in less than 30 seconds on average in all four of Which!!!’s  investigations so far, proving it can be done. It was also one of only five companies who prioritise existing customers over new ones, evidenced by a shorter call waiting time for customer service. The other four were Good Energy, Utility Warehouse, Sainsbury’s Energy and Spark.

But Which!!!’s investigation does not show that the Big 6 are necessarily the worst for customer service- nPower in particular has vastly improved its call answering times, down from a shocking 19 minutes in earlier years. But nor are the smaller ones necessarily any better.

OVO energy prides itself on offering 3% interest on credit balances to customers who pay by advance direct debit. The idea being that even if you do overpay, you’re getting compensated for the fact that they have your money instead of you. And 3% isn’t a bad rate. However it seems that OVO are less keen on actually giving you your money back, particularly at a time when you might need it, like before Christmas. Despite the fact that their own terms and conditions say that refunds requested will normally be paid within seven days, anyone requesting a refund is currently being told they might have to wait for fourteen working days (so 18 actual days) for their own money. Amazing in a time of two hour transfers. We did ask OVO for an official response but they declined to comment.

But it is worth pointing out that OVO, and a number of other energy firms don’t only allow customer service contact by telephone- customers can often get an immediate response by webchat, and OVO complaints (for example) are handled within one day even on a Saturday.

So, who is your energy provider and would you rate them as good or bad for customer service? And is the standard of customer service the main reason for investigating a switch?

Three more energy companies hit with fines

December 12th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

day2energy bkgd2 660x852 232x300 Three more energy companies hit with finesAfter British Gas got slapped silly with a fine, Ofgem are at it again, doling out financial penalties to other energy firms. Three of them have agreed to cough-up for a total of £4.6m for failing to meet energy efficiency targets. They’ve probably got that in loose change down the back of their considerable couches.

Scottish Power, SSE and generator GDF Suez/IPM are all going to be paying up after they missed environmental targets which they’d been issued with by the government.

Like the British Gas fine, the money from these will go to charities that will help vulnerable customers.

Basically, what’s happened is that these companies have missed the targets where they were required to lower carbon emissions by making their customers’ homes more energy efficient with things like cavity wall insulation and the like.

Ofgem said SSE would pay £1.75m for missing their targets, while Scottish Power will be paying £2.4m and GDF Suez/IPM is forking out £450,000.

Over the past few weeks Ofgem have issued fines that total almost £55m to six companies and £49.7m of that money will go to charities while the remaining £5m is a fine to be paid by Drax.

And yes, you can fully expect this to be recouped by the energy firms when they put everyone’s bills up next year.

energy Make sure you claim a refund on closed energy accountsIt looks like a whole host of us have not been reclaiming the money that is rightfully ours after we’ve closed accounts with energy providers. You’re smart enough to know that the energy companies are quite happy for you to leave it in their care and not do a damned thing about it.

Somewhere in advance of £200m has been left in 3.5 million frozen accounts, discovered by Ofgem, and Energy UK want everyone to get their money back.

British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, ScottishPower and SSE have all been asked to refund old customers, but obviously, they need to be ordered to do it.

So how can you get your cash back? Well, Energy UK has launched the My Energy Credit campaign and they reckon they’ve already got £50m back into the hands of the people who were owed it. Now they want everyone else to get on it. They’ve set up a website, which you can see here, as well as a helpline and freepost address. Concerning the latter, you can call 0370 737 7770 or write to:

Freepost RTHL-ZYBU-KBCC
My Energy Credit
47 Aylesbury Road
Thame, OX9 3PG

Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade said: “This campaign aims to inform customers throughout the UK about money that might be owed to them by their previous energy supplier. Energy companies have long had systems in place to give back energy credit to customers. This campaign spreads awareness and makes it easier for consumers to check whether they are owed money or not.”

So don’t miss out. If you think you’re owed money by an energy company, chase them up and you’ll have a nice little bonus to spend on dirty books, booze or whatever it is that tickles your pickle.

Ofgem hit British Gas with £11.1m penalty

December 4th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

british gas Ofgem hit British Gas with £11.1m penaltyAnd now, in ‘fines that will eventually be passed on to the customer through increases of their bills’ news, and Ofgem have hit British Gas with a penalty to the tune of £11.1m after they failed to meet energy efficiency targets.

The regulator said that British Gas had failed to meet mutually agreed deadlines to insulate homes under two energy efficiency schemes that took place until the close of 2012. While the company eventually reached the target, their messing about meant that thousands of homes missed out during the winter of 12/13.

You may recall that, only last week, the power generators Drax got slapped with a £28m fine for failing to meet similar targets under the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP). Similarly, it looks like InterGen will have to cough-up £11m too.

Other energy companies you will have heard of are looking at fines too, including SSE, Scottish Power and GDF/Suez.

Sarah Harrison from Ofgem said: “British Gas’s failure to deliver two environmental obligations on time is unacceptable. Thousands of households had to wait for energy efficiency measures, like insulation, to be installed during the winter. The payment reflects British Gas’s failure to meet its obligations on time but also recognises its commitment to put things right.”

British Gas said that we shouldn’t hate them though, because they delivered more than they were asked to do, even if they were tardy. Claire Miles, managing director of British Gas New Energy, said: “We’re pleased that in the end we managed to help more vulnerable people under this scheme than was required.”

The £11.1m will be donated to charity to help vulnerable people with energy costs and the like.

A million odd gas customers have been overcharged

November 27th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

British Gas 300x193 A million odd gas customers have been overchargedMore than a million pre-paying gas customers have been overcharged due to faulty meters.

Industry body Energy UK believe customers could have been overcharged by as much as 25p for each top-up. According to them, around 1.5 million meters haven’t been working correctly for as long as seven years, as the meters were not properly calibrated to measure the cost of the gas being used.

In the worst cases, some customers may have been rinsed for as much as £110 extra.

“We apologise unreservedly to customers,” said Lawrence Slade, the chief operating officer of Energy UK. ”We have acted quickly, and we want those affected to get their money back as soon as possible,” he told the BBC.

Gas customers will be refunded by their energy dealers, and their cards will be updated when they next need a top-up. British Gas, have already said more than 700,000 of its customers may have been overcharged.

Regulator Ofgem has called for a timetable for refunds and repairs, and it is thought that refunds will go out before Christmas.

“That overcharging has been going on for seven years shows the second-class service prepayment customers get,” said Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, adding: ”Prepayment meter customers are already paying higher charges than direct debit customers, so this is adding insult to injury.”