Do you have an ‘Economy’ 7 meter?

10 October 2012

Energy bills are expensive. The average UK bill is now over £1,300 a year, so many people choose to take advantage of the Economy 7 tariff- the idea being that if you can use energy at off-peak times, you get it cheaper. Many households try to do this, through the use of night storage heaters and timing washing machines and dishwashers to do their dirty work in the middle of the night.

However, some poking around by those champion sorts over at Consumer Focus has found that many people using Economy 7 (or another ‘time of use’ tariff) would actually be better off on a standard tariff.

You see, energy companies have distinct pricing structures for Economy 7 customers, which normally mean these customers cannot take advantage of their ‘headline’ tariffs. Of course, the off-peak energy charges will be lower than standard prices, but no-one can only use off-peak energy. The price differential between non-off-peak Economy 7 prices and standard prices mean that, for some energy providers, customers would have to use up to 45% of their energy at off-peak times. Which is a big ask. The minimum percentage use varies across suppliers and area:

Consumer_Focus_Table economy 7

In addition, the research shows that 38 per cent of these economy customers don't even have storage heaters and/or do not regularly use appliances at off-peak times. These people are getting no real benefit from the off-peak tariff and likely be better off on other energy deals.

Another big problem reported by customers is confusion over off-peak times and rates. Many people aren't sure when the cheaper hours are, how much they need to use at off-peak rates to get the benefit of their tariff, and how this compares to their current energy use. Almost six out of 10 (59 per cent) of users think additional information and advice would help them make better use of their tariff and heating system.

Consumer Focus wants energy suppliers to provide better information and advice to consumers on Time of Use tariffs. Consumers need better information on off-peak hours, their electricity use and how to get maximum benefit from their tariff. They said: “ It is especially important that key information including the off peak hours is provided regularly on customers' bills and that those who are not using off-peak rates effectively are proactively contacted and given advice by their supplier. Where customers are not benefiting from being on an Economy 7 tariff, we want to see all suppliers offer to bill them as a standard tariff customer or replace their meter.”

We tend to agree with them. Now, we just need the energy companies to give up this lucrative stream often coming from those with the lowest amounts of cash… But before you start laughing too hard, Consumer Focus are reporting that several suppliers, including British Gas, E.ON and npower have taken up the challenge and have reviewed or will soon carry out a review of their Economy 7 customer base to identify customers who would benefit from being billed as a standard tariff customer.

TOPICS:   Utilities   Motoring

8 comments

  • tin
    Deregulation of the gas and electricity market. What a fucking good idea Government!!! Don't be mad at the companies doing what they should be doing (making a profit for their shareholders) be mad at yourself for allowing the Government to do it.
  • Jon P.
    I use economy 7 but most of the time we get wood and burn it in the middle of the living room!
  • Kevin
    'but no-one can only use off-peak energy' Yes you can. Turn off your electricity in peak times. Ok your freezer will defrost and your food will go off in your fridge, your tv won't work etc but you can do it.
  • chewbacca
    Jon Packham "gets wood" in his living room. You heard it here first, kids!
  • su
    has anyone heard of economy 10 its better than economy 7 as you can use it for 10 hours including day time at the moment it is 2pm-5pm 9pm-11pm 1am-6am it changes in line with daylight saving time e.g when clocks alter it is 1pm-4pm ect I use it all the time edf energy and southern electric do this not sure who else does but it means you can really save by using washing machine tumble dryer ect more often on half price.
  • Alex B.
    I remember when Economy 7 was introduced, and it was always sold as being for people with electric storage heaters. I guess some of those houses have had their storage heaters replaced with Gas central heating or something, and people haven't bothered to change to a single-rate tariff. Laziness costs money, there's a surprise! If you do still have electric storage heaters, using 15-45% for heating isn't at all unreasonable; I have a large 2 bedroom maisonette and I get through about 4000kWh/year of electricity (on the high side, but probably about right for anyone with lots of gadgets) and about 8000kWh/year of gas (which is just heating and hot water).
  • tiderium
    Simple. when on the phone to your energy provider ask them if your using enough to be on economy 7. They will change the meter for free if your not. I know SSE do this.
  • great s.
    If you have storage heaters then you'll use well over half annual electricity off peak, even though little is used in the summer. Otherwise you won't. Simple.

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