British Gas prove their electricity is cheapest, don't explain how

4 June 2009

We're probably the only folk in the country who bother to click on ad banners. After all, gems like SugarDaddyForMe don't find themselves, now do they? So when we saw a banner from British Gas proclaiming CHEAPER ELECTRICITY PRICES ACROSS BRITAIN, the thought of saving our hard earn pennies was too much to resist.

What you'll find is a map of our fair isle to click on; highlighting each brings up a very simple bar graph, which proves that British Gas is, on average, the cheapest supplier of electricity no matter where you live:

It's a powerful message, especially since it's all too obvious with a single click of the mouse. By comparison to the British Gas prices, the competitors are absurdly expensive, and never once cheaper. There's some small print provided for the comparisons:

*Bills based on average annual single rate consumption of 3,300 kWh, paying by Monthly Direct Debit, including VAT. Standard prices as at 7th May 2009

So what happens if you plugging the same consumption figure into calculators for other suppliers? Not surprisingly, the results are as different as chalk and cheese, as unrelated as Chichester and Copenhagen:

According to nPower, they can provide the same amount of electricity to a Norwich postcode for £67 less than the figure British Gas says they can. Meanwhile over at Scottish Power:

An instant quote from their website gives an estimated cost of £405, £10 than the claim by British Gas.

While it's possible there's been a seismic shift in tariffs in the past four weeks, we're not aware of any. So there are two points to this, both concerning the presentation of the information. British Gas provide a simplistic and visual way of demonstrating a price difference. Beyond the annual consumption and some basic housekeeping, there's no other detail that might make a significant difference, such as which tariffs were compared.

Also the prices quoted by British Gas are averages - that means you can easily see the average price of electricity in your region, but that the actual cost to you might miss that number by a country mile. The ease with which the information is displayed leads you to believe that in all circumstances, wherever you live, British Gas is cheaper, and that might be so. Yet some basic comparisons, as deliberately quick and simple to emulate the process by which British Gas displays the information, suggests somebody's figures are wide off the mark.

The point, which is already etched into the bark of common sense (along with "never punch a bear in the mouth" and "illicit affairs are always best roughly five seconds before climax") is that if you want to know what you can save on your fuel bill, don't ask the suppliers. There are plenty of comparison sites that'll do the maths for you.

TOPICS:   Utilities   Consumer Advice

7 comments

  • CompactDstrxion
    Simple, British Gas prices are for Standard tariffs, and you have investigated Online tariffs which are cheaper.
  • Swansea R.
    I found it difficult to work out who is cheapest but have switched from eon to scottish power and earned 100 quidco cashback - which bring it down a bit! Comparison websites dont help either - i give mu actual usage for lasrt years in KW and have different results from different sites!
  • Paul S.
    @CompactDstrxion nowhere in the small print does it say the graph represents standard tariffs. The claim concerning standard tariffs is separate, as denoted by the two asterisks. And to be fair,if you're able to see the British Gas website, then the chances are you're able to enroll for online tariffs anyway. The point is that you can't really tell which supplier will provide you with the cheapest electricity from the graph displayed, yet that's what British Gas are hoping you'll believe.
  • Graham M.
    "nowhere in the small print does it say the graph represents standard tariffs. " No, it just says it in the HUGE print, between the graph and the "Switch today!" arrow. I shall quote: "The Cheapest Standard Electricity at average consumption in Britain**" The double asterisk then goes on to explain what "Standard Electricity" is, ie the tariff you would get if you phone up or sign on the door. Although it is definitely playing on Joe Public's ignorance of the industry's terminologies. The way to get correct figures for your price is to as the supplier for their UNIT prices, also known as the price per Kilowatt Hour, and ask for it INCLUDING the 5% VAT. Also ask them what their discount your payment method is. Then check this with the other company(s) If they refuse to give you this info over the phone - HANG UP AND GO ELSEWHERE. You will get different prices from online comparison sites because some of them have different commissions from different suppliers, which colours their results a bit. This is the advice given to me by a friend who works for one of the Big6.
  • Paul S.
    Graham, the graph is entitled "Average annual bills in your area*" - the single asterisks denotes the small I've published above. The "Standard Electricity" claim is separate to the graph, that's why it's got a double asterisk and its own set of t&cs. If I was cynical, I'd suggest they put that claim underneath the graph to people assume it relates to it. Which it doesn't. Or does it? Damn their eyes.
  • will r.
    I have search and search to find actual energy tariffs but are having great difficulty, for me to compare all i need is a list of suppliers and their tariffs simples, Is there anywhere anyone can suggest please
  • Hospedagem d.
    Great work! That is the kind of information that should be shared across the web. Disgrace on the seek engines for not positioning this publish upper! Come on over and talk over with my web site . Thank you =)

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.

Your comment