Posts Tagged ‘energy’
Looks like energy companies are still the country’s worst offenders- on just about everything. This week, new research from uSwitch.com shows that energy providers are not just charging us an arm and a leg they are doing so incorrectly, with almost two in ten households (19%) being incorrectly billed by their energy company within the last two years.
With 19% of households incorrectly billed- and a total of 11% who have had this happen more than once, only HMRC is considered more inept at getting bills right, with Council Tax, mortgage companies and insurers all coming up roses over the last eight years of the survey. While customers who have been overcharged have been in the news recently, as the energy companies hold on to refundable cash, 39% of those surveyed, equivalent to 10.14 million people, were surprised with an unexpectedly large bill following a ‘bill adjustment’, with the average extra amount owed being £146. More than one in ten (14%) have unexpectedly ended up owing £200 – £400, while 7% have ended up owing over £400.
And when extra amounts are incorrect? It is taking even longer for energy companies to sort out the problem- the average time is now just under two months, up from one month a year ago.
Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Consumers are typically paying over £100 a month for gas and electric, so the fact that they cannot rely on the accuracy of their bills is simply unacceptable. With energy bills accounting for the largest chunk of household expenditure after rent and mortgage payments, billing blunders can leave consumers feeling frustrated, susceptible and out of pocket.”
The Big Six energy suppliers have been hounded for a while and they’ve reacted badly so far, threatening Britain with a blackout. Now, they’re going to be extra annoyed as they are going to have to disclose long-term power prices, twice daily, from next month, thanks to new rules from Ofgem.
If they don’t comply, they’ll be penalised.
“Almost two million customers are with independent suppliers and we expect these reforms to help these suppliers and any new entrants to grow,” Andrew Wright, Ofgem’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Energy minister, Ed Davey said British Gas might have to be broken up to put an end to excessive profit margins and Ofgem, the Office for Fair Trading and the Competition and Markets Authority have all been investigating the competition in Britain’s energy retail market.
“Ofgem continues to think there is an issue around liquidity and transparency in the wholesale energy market,” said Peter Atherton, utilities analyst at Liberum Capital. ”But whether (these rules) solve any of the problems is questionable.”
It’s a messy situation and it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to be getting cheaper bills any time soon.
Rick Haythornthwaite – the chairman of Centrica (who own British Gas) and possibly owner of a fictional surname – has said that the political debate over energy prices risks “the lights going out” in the whole of Britain and that blackouts were ”looming much larger” and no longer the “figment of a scaremonger’s imagination”.
What’s caused this jumpy warning? Well, for a kick off, Ed Miliband has said Labour plans to freeze energy prices if they win the 2015 election and energy secretary Ed Davey has suggested that Centrica should be broken up.
“I think the reputation of Britain as a place in which to invest is under threat and the time to correct that is now, not after the 2015 election, by which time the possibility of the lights going out in Britain will be looming much larger,” he said. “And I don’t see this as the figment of a scaremonger’s imagination. I think right now we’ve got to restart collaborative, constructive dialogue around these key issues; we cannot afford to wait, hostilities have got to cease.”
Sam Laidlaw, another bigwig at Centrica, added: “We firmly believe that any form of price control in a competitive market is not the answer and is not in the best interests of customers, and this has been clearly demonstrated by experience in other markets. Such proposals create both short-term uncertainty for all energy suppliers and longer-term additional costs for customers.”
Things are tough at British Gas. They’ve lost 462,000 customers since 2012, with a whopping 100,000 ditching them in the past two months. Profits are down and the company have been raising tariffs. All the energy companies, currently, look worse than bankers and trust is low.
However, with people like Laidlaw on £5million a year, it seems there’ll be little sympathy for political hostilities toward the energy sector, especially if it seems like they’re ready to switch the lights off in Britain, in a sulk.
Hurray! Good energy news at last! Actually, you might want to sit down for this one. We’re so used to getting mightily shafted by energy companies that the idea of them giving our money back to us seems very strange indeed, but unbelievably, it’s actually happening.
Yes, after EDF energy’s decision to refund credit balances if you pay by Direct Debit, five out of the Big Six have agreed to follow suit. So if you’ve got a credit balance of £5 or more, they’ll refund you automatically. British Gas, E-On, EDF, NPower and SSE are all on board. Only the tight wads at Scottish Power are reluctant to lower the threshold for automatic refunds.
Of course, your energy supplier will still try to ‘suggest’ that you roll it over to your next bill, and you’ll need to provide a meter reading before your annual energy review. But it sure beats having to make formal requests to claw back any excess you’ve paid. And it means your hard earned cash will no longer languish in the bulging coffers of the Big Six, racking up interest.
Which! calculate that 55% of energy customers pay by Direct Debit, and that 56% are in credit to the tune of an average of £161. Which means a nice Spring pay out for quite a lot of people.
But although it’s tempting to go and spend it on new clothes, or a slap up meal at the Harvester, maybe we should put it towards something useful – like next winter’s astronomical energy bills…
According to Which!!!, if you’re one of the 3.9m households who are on tariffs that charge different rates for using energy at different times of day, you could well be left “significantly out of pocket” because of inaccurate clocks on your meter.
It seems that people have been warning Which!!! that, for people on tariffs like Economy 7 where you are charged less for using power at night, customers are being overcharged.
Gary Day told Which!!! that his meter was inaccurate, as were those with three of his neighbours. Swalec, as a result, refunded them £2,300. He said: ”I have only checked four meters and every single one of them was wrong. The problem is most consumers don’t go around checking, and we are at a disadvantage because of that.”
A Which!!! spokesperson said: “Having a faulty clock on your energy meter could leave you hundreds of pounds out of pocket. It’s the supplier’s responsibility to ensure they are correct so if you suspect there might be a fault then contact your energy company.”
Meanwhile, over at Ofgem, a spokesman said: “If consumers suspect that their electricity meter is faulty their supplier is required to investigate and make best efforts to resolve the problem. If necessary, as a final option the supplier will make arrangements for the meter to be verified by a meter examiner appointed by National Measurement Office.”
Have you been charged for gas you didn’t use? It’s happening as people are being charged hundreds of pounds for gas meters on their premises, even though they’re only using electricity. Worse still, is that people wanting their gas meters removed are faced with (up to) £400 bills to have them taken away.
It seems that some companies are charging households a fixed daily fee for simply having a certain type of gas meter. The money covers the supplier’s cost of billing and metering. That’d be the cost of counting no gas being used, even in houses that are disconnected.
It seems these bills are a new thing. Reports have said that people weren’t getting these bills at all, but are now getting nasty surprises and being asked to fork out £100 a year for something they’ve never used.
Scottish Power will charge you up to £400 to get rid of your ghost meter, while E.on will ask you for £82 for the privilege.
It seems the best thing to do is to change your provider to someone like British Gas, Npower or SSE who remove gas meters for free (but have other problematic attitudes to billing, so shop around).
A spokesperson for the Association of Meter Operators says: “Removing a meter from someone’s house and capping supply there should only take about half an hour and cost no more than £50. The operative will then return at some point in the next couple of years and decide whether they need to dig up the road and cut the supply at street level — this costs more, but if you are no longer a customer it’s unlikely they could come after you for the cost.”
Ed Davey – he’s the energy secretary – has asked Ofgem to investigate the profits that the Big Six energy companies have made. If it is found that they’ve been ripping us off, he’ll consider breaking them up into little pieces.
Seeing as Davey is a Lib Dem in a Coalition run by Tories, the likelihood of them letting him do anything of great importance is slim-to-piss-all, so the Big Six inevitably didn’t lose a wink of sleep over this news.
The minister said the debate about energy prices had focused on the cost of electricity, when really, we should be looking at gas prices. In some instances, companies are making five times the profit on gas than they are electricity.
He said that Ofgem should do a “full-scale market investigation”, adding: “I want them to think radically. There could be a number of remedies, including the breakup of some of these companies if they have abused their market power.”
This comes on the back of Ed Milliband promising to go after the energy companies, saying that, should Labour win the next election, they’ll freeze prices (you’ll notice those prices aren’t dropping) and reform the market.
Davey wrote a letter to Ofgem’s chief executive, Andrew Wright, and singled out British Gas pointing out that there is evidence that they tend “to charge one of the highest prices over the past three years, and has been on average the most profitable”. He continued: ”Clearly you will wish to consider whether this is prima facie evidence of an issue in the market and so whether it merits a market investigation reference with the whole gamut of potential remedies that could follow including a breakup of any companies found to have monopoly power to the detriment of the consumer.”
“Alternatively you may of course conclude that no action is needed or potentially some intermediate measure which can be taken by the sector regulator.”
Ofgem, it is over to you.
**UPDATE** Stocks have slumped after the news of a potential breaking up of the Big Six. More here.
Ofgem has been about as effective in regulating the Big Six as a squirrel trying operate a fork lift truck, and now ministers say it’ll be scrapped if it doesn’t end the monopoly on the energy market.
The ministers’ exact words were that it was in the ‘last chance saloon’ and if it doesn’t encourage more small suppliers to compete, it’ll be scrapped like broken combi boiler.
The government wants to shake up the energy market and create more competition, and have accused Ofgem of getting too cosy with the Big Six. As a result, the big buggers are profiteering, while insisting to Ofgem that their profit margins are small.
Unless Ofgem up their game and deliver an actual plan to end the reign of the Big Six, and stop customers from being overcharged (which is why they exist in the first place), then they will be dissolved, and energy regulation will be in the hands of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Ofgem got a bit stroppy about rumours that they might be for the chop. ‘We don’t comment on speculation. We are working with the OFT and the Competition and Markets Authority on our assessment of competition in the energy market and we will be publishing by the end of March.’
Meanwhile, it seems that they’re REALLY not popular in Whitehall – so they’d better watch it.
‘Ofgem have been a nightmare for years.’ Said one government source. ‘They keep Government in the dark about what they’re doing and then spring things on us at the last minute – usually at 3.30 on a Friday afternoon.’
Here’s some positive news for a change…Energy secretary Ed Davey has just announced a new £10m fund to encourage urban communities to get involved in renewable energy.
If you live in the city, you and the people in your area could get up to £150,000 towards solar panels or a shared wind turbine. There’ll also be rewards to encourage communities to save money on their energy bills by collectively switching suppliers.
With energy costs rocketing, making your own solar and wind power no longer seems so pie in the sky, and as creating renewable energy can mean lower (or even non-existent) bills, this seems like a good way to put some power into people’s hands.
So how do you get the grant? Well, it’s not been decided yet, but groups will soon be invited to apply for grant of up to £20,000 to assist with the planning stages and assess what’s possible to achieve in their community. Then loans up to £130,000 will be available to help the project go ahead.
Called the Urban Community Energy Fund, this actually seems like quite a good idea from the government– and a surprisingly socialist one, too. ‘Sock it to The Man and build your own wind turbine, dude’ doesn’t seem exactly in line with Osborne’s attempts to Frack everything up, but let’s be thankful for small mercies, eh?
Well, it’s nice that somebody is getting something out of cripplingly high energy bills. SSE, who apologetically claimed they had ‘no choice’ but to raise energy prices by 8.2% have announced a shameful profit of £1.54bn, and you can bet they’re not going to let you have any of it back.
The profit announcement isn’t going to go down very well with the public, who want to slay the Big Six dragons after their huge price rises in November. SSE are particularly in the firing line as the first to announce price rises in a ‘sorry/not sorry’ tone – plus they were the last to agree on a reduction of prices after a government deal to reduce levies.
Alistair Phillips Davies, CEO of SSE, (no doubt lighting his stoagie with a £50 note) seemed particularly immune to what will surely be a massive customer backlash against the energy giant. In fact, he seemed rather tickled that they were all doing so well.
‘It is encouraging that SSE is on course to deliver real growth in the dividend and increases in adjusted earnings per share and adjusted profit before tax.’
WHOO HOO! REALLY JAZZED FOR YOU, DOLL!
We would crack open the champagne, but we spent all our money putting the boiler on for five minutes.
Ofgem have set phasers to furious and, along with the Government, have accused npower of ‘misleading’ consumers over how they structure our bills. The supplier released a 14-page document called ‘Energy Explained: Inside The Cost Of Energy’, which they hoped would help “create a better understanding of the facts behind the energy industry”.
In a bid to help us all minimise our costs, they added that our bills are high because our “old and draughty” houses waste too much gas and electricity and, with some words on insulation they also stated that costs beyond their control would see bills going up until 2020 by a projected 74%.
Ofgem aren’t having any of it, replying: “We welcome npower’s effort to inform the energy debate, however their data on network costs is incorrect and misleading. We offered to help npower improve the accuracy of their numbers for network charges and it is disappointing that they did not engage fully with us until after the document had been circulated.”
The energy regulator weren’t the only people irritated by npower’s words. The Government were aggrieved that npower said green taxes on energy bills would more than double by the end of the decade.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change spat back, saying ”npower’s analysis is incorrect on so many levels”, adding: ”A number of the policies listed by npower don’t have any impact on household energy bills, including the Renewable Heat Incentive, Climate Change Levy and the Carbon Reduction Commitment.”
Who do you believe?
The larger energy companies are once again failing their customers, according to Which!, who have found that overall customer satisfaction has slumped even further – from 49% to 41%.
All the Big Six companies are languishing at the bottom of the table like large, unflushable turds, despite the fact that they account for 90% of the energy market. NPower is the worst turd, with 31% customer satisfaction. The others don’t fare much better, with the best of a bad bunch being E-On with 45%.
Rising to the top full of fibre and vigour are the little energy companies that could, with the clear winner being Good Energy, who have managed to top the Which! table for two years in a row. In joint first place is teeny weeny supplier Ecotricity – both scored 82%.
But the energy market as a whole is on its knees, and as you can imagine, Ricardo Lloyd from Which! is blowing a fuse about all this. He said:
‘Once again the biggest energy companies have been beaten by the smaller suppliers but there are no winners in a broken market that consistently fails consumers. We want to see radical solutions to improve competition and keep prices in check, like the biggest energy companies being forced to separate wholesale generation from the retail arms of their business.’
Don’t mess with Richard. Just…DO WHAT HE SAYS, OK?
In our relentless and heroic quest to save money, shoppers are hitting on smart methods to save more – by using cashback websites when they switch energy providers.
Apparently people using the TopCashback and Quidco websites saved £45 and £39 each, bringing the grand total of energy cashback savings in Britain to a British Gas thrashing £2.85 million.
Around 150,000 households decided to switch energy providers to save money last year, after the astronomical price rises were announced. But those using cashback sites saved even more.
Cashback sites act as a middle man and give you cashback if you click through them to reach the company or provider you want to buy from. The amount of people using cashback sites to switch from their expensive Big Six monster to a smaller, cheaper provider rose between September and October 2013, showing that people really aren’t as daft as they look.
It follows a growing trend to shop around for energy deals – but MORE people need to start switching to end the tyranny of the Big Six. If you’re looking for a better deal – with cashback – you can still switch utility companies through cashback sites, but a recent Ofgem ruling means that you can only get cash back if you use a comparison site first.
So go to Quidco et al, click through to a comparison site, and get switching. OK, it might sound convoluted, but surely it’s better than subsidising the energy fat cats who are currently wallowing in a boob shaped pool full of Chateaubriand and Dom Perignon.
Around 50,000 homes were left without power for five days and, under Ofgem rules, these companies have to ensure that they have sufficient resources available to operate distribution “properly and efficiently”.
Ofgem says that “further action,” on top of fines, could also be taken against the energy network companies.
UK Power Networks admitted that the group, who between them supply eight million homes and businesses in the South East “could and should have done more” to restore power. As a result, they have almost trebled the compensation for homeowners £27 to £75.
Elsewhere, the Big Six energy firms are also required to answer some questions and give evidence to a committee of politicians over why restoring the power to households was so drawn out and laborious. Energy Select Committee chairman Tim Yeo said that the Big Six energy groups needed to explain their “unacceptable performance”. As these companies provide 99% of the energy in Britain, they clearly need to buck their ideas up.
Yeo said in a statement: “I’m very concerned about how long the network distribution companies took to restore power to thousands of customers. The Committee will call them in when the House gets back. I’m already concerned that these distribution companies are not properly scrutinised by Ofgem, despite being effectively monopolies. Their performance over Christmas was unacceptable.”
The big energy bosses at Centrica wouldn’t be living it up while we all freeze to death, would they? I mean, surely they have some sense of social responsibility, and some kind of fellow feeling for their struggling customers?
HA HA! WRONG! Instead the powers that be who own British Gas have been sitting around a large banqueting table doing Mr Burns style finger tents and trying to figure out how to make even more lovely money. 40 big energy cheeses recently gathered at the Aviator in Farnborough to discuss strategy (ie: fleecing us) and have a rare old time. And the cost of this little gathering? £40,000.
That was the estimated cost of flying key members of staff over from the US to feed them Chateaubriand and Dom Perignon, and put them up for a night in a swanky hotel. But that’s just a drop in the ocean for Centrica, who creamed off £2.7 billion in profits this year.
So this winter, remember this: for every shivering pensioner wondering whether to put the condemned gas cooker on to heat their lone tin of Goblin stew, there’s an odious turd in a suit eating pheasant in a five star country hotel and saying ‘MWUAHAHAHAHA.’