Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Energy prices up – do something

Did you, like me, have a letter from your energy supplier this morning?

Did it tell you that prices are going up, but not by how much? Well, it’s an open secret that energy prices are likely to rise by 6-9% in the next two months.

Energy prices went up by 20% last year, and nearly 50% over the previous four years. Last year, the average duel fuel bill was £1345 per household and standard tariffs rose by £175 between May and October. Pensioners, families and businesses all felt the squeeze as electricity prices rose by 10% and gas by 17.4%.  Yet, energy companies had seen their profits soar in the same period.

And, what was the government’s response? It cut winter fuel payments by £50 for the over 60s and £100 for the over 80s. Most aged 60-79 got £50 less, and those who were 80 or older got £300 instead of £400. Before the last election, when challenged that a Conservative government would cut the winter fuel allowances, David Cameron had said “These are quite simply lies.” You can draw your own conclusion.

Energy bills are now one of the biggest costs facing households - but only 20% of people are currently on the cheapest deal. This isn’t surprising when research by consumer group Which? showed that, even when people try to shop around for a better deal, energy companies don’t give them accurate information in a third of cases.

It’s clear that hard-pressed families and businesses need more transparency on costs, pricing and profits to know whether they're getting a fair deal. But they’re clearly not going to get much help from this government, which shows no interest in protecting struggling households and vulnerable customers from being ripped off.

However, a new initiative launched today might just help. Switch Together helps people to club together to negotiate a cheaper deal with energy companies. You may have seen websites where you can compare energy costs to find the cheapest rate. But this is different because if lots of people get together and switch all at once, there is greater potential for a good deal. This is what Switch Together scheme does.

It's easy and safe, and support and guidance is available throughout the registration and switching process.

You need to register before 25th November 2012. After the deadline they'll hold an auction with energy companies to find the cheapest deal - which will then be available to everyone who signs up. They’ll do all the work for you and let you know if you could save money.

There's no obligation to take it if it's not cheaper than your current deal - but the more people who sign up, the more likely it is that it will help households cut their costs over winter.
Sign up at before 25th November 2012.