meerkat Price comparison sites might be serving themselves, before youIn fantastically shocking news that absolutely no-one was more than well aware of, price comparison sites have been accused for hiding the best deals because they’d rather promote the ones that serve them better. It’s almost like this hasn’t been going on for years!

The Big Deal website have started throwing accusations around (so lawyers, if you’d like to go to them instead of us, that’d be lovely) saying that five of Britain’s biggest price comparison sites are being deceitful.

Which ones?

Well, they’ve said that uSwitch never showed the cheapest deal over the Big Deal’s 13 week investigation, as well as regularly hiding three of the top five cheapest deals.

The sites use mechanisms to “hide deals where they ask users if they want to see deals they can switch to ‘today’ or ‘now’”, according to a statement from The Big Deal. By clicking ’yes’ to this option, the websites remove deals which don’t earn the price comparison sites a commission from the energy companies. Those just happen to be the cheapest deals. The Big Deal says that Money Supermarket and Confused automatically tick the ‘yes’ option.

They also say that Compare the Market and Go Compare automatically show users these results without asking the user, adding that “you have to go through several screens to ‘filter your results’ to see the cheapest deals.”

The bad news for these sites is that hiding deals could well be in breach of EU and UK law.

“Price comparison sites are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, make huge profits and with over 5 million people switching a year are a major part of the energy market,” said The Big Deal co-founders Henry de Zoete and Will Hodson in an open letter to the major price comparison sites. ”Yet there is no transparency to how they make their money or how much they charge. Polling by Populus found that 43% of people did not even realise that the sites charge energy companies a commission.”

uSwitch aren’t having it though, saying: “We are fully accredited under the Ofgem Confidence Code, meaning that our results tables are always ordered by the savings a customer can make in a fair, independent and unbiased way.”

“We are fully supportive of Ofgem’s decision to strengthen the code to ensure that all price comparison websites operate to the same high standard.”

Either way, if this is news to you, make sure you tinker with the settings on any price comparison site of any sort in a bid to make sure it is working for you, rather than the middle man.

Save money by switching things off, dummy

October 15th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

plug socket Save money by switching things off, dummyIt seems that, even in 2014, there are people who are unaware of the fact that leaving appliances on standby costs you money.

Some of you may think this is blindingly obvious, but households are wasting around £80 per year because they don’t switch their televisions and consoles off at night. We are, to the hysterical, A Nation On Standby!

If everyone stopped leaving things on standby, then the country could make savings of £1.7 billion a year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

The survey, ahead of Big Energy Saving Week, found that three-quarters of people polled were worried about their energy bills, so one easy way to reduce them is to make sure that you’re actually turning off gadgets and such, when you’re not using them.

Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: “Whatever your age, gender or the size of your household: our research has found millions of us are unintentionally wasting electricity when we leave our gadgets on standby. It’s an easy mistake to make yet it costs us a fortune.”

“Televisions and games consoles are now among the primary sources of our everyday entertainment, yet when left on permanent standby they are costing £45-£80 a year.”

“I’m not suggesting we get rid. I’m urging people to take back control of their appliances next week and switch off when we aren’t using them.”

It isn’t just leaving stuff on all the time either. Older people are adding to their bills by having rubbish, old fridges. Decrepit appliances are more likely to have faults that make them inefficient. A faulty thermostat on a freezer could be adding £45 to your bills, annually. Getting rid of old-fashioned light bulbs and replacing them with energy efficient ones and halogen lights with LEDs could save you around £45 a year on bills.

 

And if that doesn’t work, then you should check your provider to make sure you’re getting the best deal from them.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Consumers can make a real difference to their electricity bills by improving energy efficiency at home and Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust are there to help. Shopping around for the best energy deal can also make a huge difference.”

“We’ve slashed the vast array of confusing tariffs, so it’s now easier to compare energy prices and switching times will be halved by the end of this year. Households could be saving a further £200 per year just by switching suppliers.”

So there you have it. Stop being daft and save yourself some money. It doesn’t matter if you care for the Earth or not – with the money you save, you could buy a substantial amount of booze, so you know it is worth doing.

Red Bull: No wings pay-out

October 10th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

red bull 300x199 Red Bull: No wings pay outRed Bull customers have been hammering them for a payout, after they were sued for false advertising.

It turns out that the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”, which the company had been using for over a decade is false. It doesn’t actually give you wings.

SORRY TO BREAK IT TO YOU THIS WAY.

Anyone who felt slighted by not obtaining wings after glugging down the syrupy energy gloop, can now take advantage of a cash reimbursement from Red Bull, after they set $13 million aside into an account.

No. Seriously.

Figuring that it would quietly die down, the company’s website has now been inundated with claims, with the likelihood of the settlement devaluing somewhat from the initial $10 to less than $3, due to an internet storm.

The site has been visited over four million times now, but as no proof of purchase is needed – anyone could feasibly waltz in and say that they broke their back jumping from a block of flats under the proviso that wings would occur, and that’d be cool apparently.

You have until March 2015 to claim your pay-out (which will be next-to-nothing) if you were in anyway affected by the lack of wings.

Of course, if they had advertised it as ‘Red Bull gives you a massive headache and buggers about with your sleep patterns’ then there’d be none of this palaver.

God help us if there’s a war.

Citizens Advice to help energy customers

October 2nd, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

energy bills 300x300 Citizens Advice to help energy customersCitizens Advice have launched a new campaign to help out those who get grief from faulty prepayment meters.

Approximately 10.8 million people in the UK use the meters, and CAB’s research discovered that one in every six meter customers has had their power cut off due to faulty meters.

The Citizen’s Advice report “Topping up or Dropping out” revealed some of the bleak choices and challenges that pay-as-you go energy customers face.

According to the research, half of prepayment customer who had their supply disconnected last year are concerned about being able to afford to top up their gas or electricity meters

Citizen Advice say that there are people being left without any energy as their credit had ran out and they were unable to get to a shop to buy a top-up.

The report also said that a household that has a prepayment meter spends £80 more a year on energy than a person on direct debit.

One of the more worrying aspects found out by CAB, was that there are consumers who are self-disconnecting (going without gas or electricity) because of increasing energy costs and unstable finances.

By law, Energy Suppliers are not allowed to disconnect elderly, sick, disabled or households with young children in them between October 1st 2014 and March 31st 2015, however no such rule applies to consumers on a prepayment meter.

The report also had some other stark findings:

• Children live in half of the households that have prepayment meters.
• People who are on prepayment meters and self-disconnect are on the lowest incomes.
• Keeping the meter topped up is a major concern for more than half of people who have disconnected in the last year, up by six per cent since 2010.
• Disconnections can be as little as an hour to as long as several months.
• 43% of bureaux advisers referred cut-off prepayment consumers to a foodbank.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said “Going without gas or electricity is a grave necessity not a choice. The budgets of many prepayment meter users are stretched so thin that not topping up their energy meters for a few days, or even weeks, is the only way to get by. It is very concerning that, as temperatures start to drop and the nights draw in, some prepayment consumers will be living in cold, dark homes because they can’t afford to put money on their meters.”

Energy customers can get advice by calling our consumer helpline on 03454 040506, go online at www.adviceguide.org.uk or visit their local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Asda and Sainsburys have a petrol war

September 30th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

petrolpump 300x200 Asda and Sainsburys have a petrol warMotorists are in luck with regards to slightly cheaper petrol, thanks to Asda and Sainsbury’s duking it out between at the pumps.

It’s a petrol WAR! No, not like the war for oil or the war on drugs. This is a lot more brutal than those.

Sainsbury’s announced it would cut petrol and diesel prices by up to 5p per litre.

Not to be outdone, Asda responded by unveiling reductions of 1p and up to 2p per litre for petrol and diesel respectively at its stores.

Apparently price cuts are likely to be larger in heavily populated areas where prices are already lower due to greater competition from the likes of Asda.

A man from the AA, who is known as Luke Bosdet, said: “The real value will be in places, often small market towns, suffering from the postcode pump price lottery – having to pay at least 3p a litre more than in neighbouring, more competitive towns. If that pulls down the price among other retailers, that will be a big benefit.”

In more heavily populated areas a 5p cut, amounting to £2.50 off the average tank of fuel, would only bring Sainsbury’s in line with cheaper rivals, he added. Although industry insiders questioned the timing of the announcement by Sainsbury’s, who are heavily tipped to unveil a dismal set of trading results later this week.

Brian Madderson, of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, said: “My initial cynical reaction is that this is an attempt to divert the press and the public away from some pretty bad news on their store sales.”

“Five pence per litre, in terms of an at-the-pump price rather than a loyalty card, is probably one of the biggest if not the biggest potential cut I have come across in the last five years so the cynic in me says there is much more to this than meets the eye.”

Grab petrol cheap anyway! Pay with your lives later!

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.”