/ Home & Energy

Do energy bills send shivers down your spine?

Man in dark

We’ve heard from thousands of people who are dreading a cold winter. The financial burden of heating their homes sends a shiver down their spine. Here are just some of their comments.

More than 335,000 people have signed our Fair Energy Prices campaign, with many of you sharing your experiences and concerns as we prepare for the winter months.

Protecting the vulnerable

Antoinette told us how she’s too scared to put the heating on:

‘I’m finding it difficult to pay my bills. I’m 62, disabled, and I’m too scared to put my heating on when it’s cold for fear of what my gas and electricity bills will be. I’ve started to go to bed early and get up late to keep warm. This is no way for someone of my age to have to live for four months of the year.’

Antoinette’s story and thousands like her are why we’re calling on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to use its competition inquiry to make the energy market fairer for consumers.

Eating or heating

Nicola recently told us on Facebook that her heating bill is a cause for concern this winter:

‘I too fear the heating bills, my home has no central heating so I have to have electric heaters or coal fire. I’m a single parent and have my 82-year-old mother with me, she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer on Wednesday of this week, she has to keep warm and the heating is on constantly, of course I must keep it on for her sake. I do work full time, but the heating bill is terrifying me.’

While Joanne is juggling childcare and trying to keep up with her energy bills:

‘I have a young daughter and want to keep the home warm and be able to cook proper meals for her without worrying about the size of the fuel bill.’

Struggling to pay energy bills

Terence told us how heating his home is a financial struggle:

‘This winter we could only afford to heat a single room. It almost broke me.’

And Patricia is doing all she can to keep her energy bills down:

‘I am a disabled pensioner. My money does not stretch as far as having the heating on as much as I should at my age, and I am now behind on payments. It takes all summer to get the bill part way down, then it starts all over again. I try to go as long as I can without putting it on and I go to bed early with two hot water bottles. I thought this was 2015 – it doesn’t feel like it to me.’

Stories like these put the issue of energy prices in a very stark light. The CMA not only needs to cut the number of people on expensive tariffs and make switching easier, it needs to penalise those suppliers who don’t protect the most vulnerable.

The CMA will be judged on the legacy of its inquiry – if it doesn’t deliver a fairer energy market for people like Antoinette, Nicola, Joanne, Terence and Patricia, it will have failed.


[UPDATE 14 January 2016] – It’s been reported today that wholesale gas and electricity prices have fallen by nearly a third in a year, hitting a five-year low. And yet energy companies have failed to lower bills. Only British Gas has cut prices in the last six months, and by just 5%. The rest of the Big Six didn’t follow suit.

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

‘It’s extremely disappointing millions of us are still paying way over the odds for our energy. Consumers will rightly ask why their bills haven’t been cut dramatically when wholesale costs have dropped.’

And there are faces behind the numbers, with many of you telling us how you struggle to pay your energy bills, like Jill:

‘My income is fixed but prices aren’t. Do I eat and freeze or stay warm and starve?’

We’re calling on the Government and the CMA to protect vulnerable customers from being ripped off and to deliver fair energy prices. Do you think energy bills should be cut in line with falling wholesale costs? Tell us what you think so we can share your views with the CMA.

Comments

Regrettably energy is expensive. I totally agree that there should be a real push to get people to switch from “standard” tariffs to the cheaper fixed price ones. We should also ensure those who prepay have access to the same deals – I believe Ofgem are on to this.

I’d like to see fixed price tariffs abolished – there is no penalty if you move during the contract so they might as well be called “standard”tariffs – except they are cheaper. They are subsidised by those on the more expensive standard tariffs. I’d revert to a standard single unit price tariff with a standing charge that reflects only the actual fixed costs associated with the supply; a two-tier unit tariff with no standing charge for lower uses, and a white meter tariff for those who use a substantial amount of electricity off peak.

You say “penalise those suppliers who don’t protect the most vulnerable”. I certainly want those who are genuinely vulnerable helped, but I see this the job of the government through support payments – as they do with the winter fuel allowance, not the job of commercial organisations who do not have the information to decide who is vulnerable and deserving of financial assistance.

As far as the winter fuel allowance is concerned I would restrict its use – certainly not to people who pay at the higher tax rate. I’d even question whether it should be paid to anyone who pays tax. Give it to those who need it, and share the savings in other energy help for the vulnerable.

So far we’ve had a mild autumn; let’s hope it stays that way 🙂

Over the last twenty years this country has moved very largely to a rentier economy (i.e. many private landlords from whom others have to rent, as they cannot afford to buy). Landlords are not obliged to provide well-insulated homes and many tenants are forced to live in homes with high energy costs due to lack of insulation, single-glazing, draughty doors, etc. Legislation should be enacted to oblige landlords to provide a reasonable level of insulation and fix defects promptly, in the same way they are obliged to provide smoke detectors. That legislation should make it a criminal offence for landlords to evict tenants for asking for them to make these improvements. IT is unacceptable tht we should go back to Victorian standards of living for tenants, that is the children and grandchildren of the comfortably-off generations.

DECC say “From April 2018, landlords will be required by law to get their leakiest properties to an energy efficiency rating of at least Band “E”. Estimates suggest that on average the difference in a heating bill from the least energy efficient properties and those with an energy rating Band “E” is £880.”

It might be 2 1/2 years away but I suppose it’s better than nothing.

Many local authorities require all private landlords to purchase a licence for each property rented out, but those I’ve looked at are fairly basic and don’t cover energy efficiency. I wonder how the conditions they eventually impose will differ, on energy, from “social” (is this still council?) housing.

A couple of years ago, Which? proposed simple unit prices, which would allow prices to be compared as easily as the price of petrol. We need to get rid of standing charges which mean that high users are subsidised by low users, which can include the most vulnerable members of our society.

The fact that many have stayed with the same energy supplier for years or never switched demonstrates that the system is not working. There are significant costs in switching suppliers and these are shared by everyone, adding to the costs for those who don’t switch.

Energy and water are essential to everyone, so let’s make buying energy as straightforward as choosing which loaf of bread to buy. I don’t struggle with my bills but am glad to see that Lauren has focused on the problems of those who do.

I agree that getting rid of standing charges would be an attractive option for some.

However, for many on very low incomes, the exact opposite – a fixed price deal , irrespective of the amount of energy used, might make it easiest to budget.

After all, many will be on fixed incomes…

There is a fundamental difference between a :
Standing Charge
and an:
”(H) Eat as much as you like for £x” system.

+ 1

“We need to get rid of standing charges which mean that high users are subsidised by low users” This sweeping statement is incorrect (in my opinion) as has been aired on numerous occasions.

We simply need to pay what it costs. There are fixed costs (meter reading, account, connection maintenance, and some of the government levies imposed on energy companies) associated with an energy supply, irrespective of how much, or how little, energy you use. If you put these in with the unit charge, people who use a lot of energy will pay more than the fixed cost, people who use little energy will pay less. There are vulnerable users at both ends of energy use – old people, in all day, poor health, lots of heating, poorly insulated house or large families with more washing, cooking, poor accommodation they cannot change. Why make them pay more than they should? Wealthy couple – both earning, out all day, well insulated home, low energy use, paying little towards the fixed costs. Why subsidise them? The point is, this “simple” charging proposal is simply indiscriminate in who it hurts and who it helps. No equity in that. Anyway, it was based on the questionable premise that the Brits can’t do simple arithmetic or use a comparison site that does all the work for them.

That is why I believe we should revert to a choice of sensible tariffs that should be fair to as many as possible.

You have forgotten those who are well off, have large houses and heating bills to match. Thanks to standing charges, they are subsidised by those who are small consumers because they cannot afford to use enough heating to keep warm.

I believe that the infrastructure and maintenance for essential services including energy, water and sewerage should be funded from taxation for all households, in the same way that we are all provided with NHS services, street lighting, education, bin collections, etc. That’s a step too far, but simple unit pricing for energy would be easy to achieve.

There is a significant number of people really struggling to pay their bills. I don’t know one of them but I read the news and see we now have a large food collection basket at the entrance to the local Tesco store. I believe we need some redistribution of income in the UK. The government should tackle the problem and not just leave it for charities to help the needy.

I accept that there are people who are high energy users out of necessity, but the solution is means tested benefits so that we are not subsidising those who can afford to pay or those who are profligate in their energy use.

“You have forgotten those who are well off, have large houses and heating bills to match.” I most certainly have not. I have said repeatedly there are vulnerable users as both ends of the spectrum, and of course there are wealthy users in big houses who may use a lot of energy, and poor users in small houses who use little – I would assume this was understood without making extended comments.

The point I was making was because the vulnerable (poor) are at both ends of the energy spectrum (as are the wealthy and the in-betweens) the proposal to put all costs, including fixed, into an (oversimple) unit charge – where heavy users pay more than their fair share of the fixed cost – is indiscriminate in who it penalises. That is simply not fair or equitable.

A well argued piece, but you leave out the major point.
These Utilities, these Essentials for a normal life in a cold climate, are run for PROFIT.
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich C E Os
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich Oil Dictators in Middle East countries.
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich Oligarchs who stole the Russian people’s heritage, laundered it thru’ ”London” , and now own vast swathes of our capital.
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich Sovereign Wealth Fund shareholders. Funds that go to subsidize the low costs for those very same essentials from their own Nationalized industries, not ours.

The people of UK bought and paid to run all these Essential utilities.
A corrupt Government stole those assets, flogged them off to themselves and their chums, pocketed the proceeds in Tax reductions.
They should be jailed and asset stripped
Their Fences [Stockbrokers] should be jailed and asset stripped
Anyone involved in subsequent buying, selling and now holding, these stolen assets should be jailed and asset stripped
” … il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.”

I just love highly emotive opinion pieces that then throw the problem to some regulatory body to solve. Seems we get it every year and my advice that Which? get of its nethers and take some positive action will again fall on deaf ears.

Come on Which? now you are not blowing £3.5 m a year in India how about working with BRE and other organisation on technology that helps those who need heat cheaply. What about buying a hundred Thermal imagining cameras and find out where houses are leaking heat by getting Which? members to do something active in their neighbourhood.

Or is a part of the problem the elderly living in larger draughtier houses than they can afford to run.? Lots of stories little research.

Here is a starter:
under-occupancy: according to UK government statistics, on average those in the most extreme fuel poverty live in larger than average homes

dieseltaylor, I, too, get tired of Which?s emotive, but one-sided, approach to some topics. Of course there are people with problems paying energy bills – same as rent, food, clothes and other essentials (not so sure that broadband would be on that list). So is this just about grabbing tabloid headlines? A pity our only consumers association does not adopt a fair, balanced and objective approach to more topics. I am probably on my own, but I can get emotional and populist arguments by buying a tabloid; I want Which? to be objective and constructive.
I suppose I might be reminded that I should consider the vulnerable. Believe me I do, but I want constructive ways to help them. I think I have posted one or to before, and here. So what “fairer” energy market would help those who can’t afford to heat there homes? Unless energy is substantially over-priced it costs what it costs. We need to provide state aid to those vulnerable people. Well, in my view anyway. I don’t see what else we can do.

malcolm r says:
Unless energy is substantially over-priced it costs what it costs.
——————-
My posting applies :
JosefKafka says:

These Utilities, these Essentials for a normal life in a cold climate, are run for PROFIT.
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich C E Os
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich Oil Dictators in Middle East countries.
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich Oligarchs who stole the Russian people’s heritage, laundered it thru’ ”London” , and now own vast swathes of our capital.
** PROFITS to pay £10s of Millions to fill the pockets of already stinking rich Sovereign Wealth Fund shareholders. Funds that go to subsidize the low costs for those very same essentials from their own Nationalized industries, not ours.

……..

Which? Best Buy heater

CMR400889081 wrote:
really frustrating tip over device
When it works, its perfect. Soon after I purchased one the tip over device started cutting the power for no reason. Unfortunately bought it in March, so too late for a refund now:(
14/9/2015 11:59 PM CUT

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2011-03-27 18:42:35.253 wrote:
Tilt function makes it unusuable
Yet another disappointing purchase on the basis of a which review. The tilt sensor random operation (on a flat surface) makes the use pf this heater impossible. Which, how come your tests did not reveal any of this? This seems to be a most common occurrence how could this product become a best buy? I am appalled by which!
23/4/2015 11:18 AM CUT

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Which.co.uk editor wrote:
Response from DeLonghi to poor customer feedback
“De’ Longhi is of course committed to a continuous improvement of products in our range and takes into serious consideration all comments received from users. We take full responsibility to solve any possible ​inconveniences ​according to the warranty terms and conditions.
To best support the end users we would firstly reiterate that for correct operation the product TCH 8093ER should always be positioned on a flat, even surface (as designated in the User Manual).
​However, in cases where further problems with the safety tip over mechanism occurs please contact our Customer Experience team (customer.experience@delonghigroup.com) who will gladly guide through the best procedure – be it repair, replace or just advice to get the most from the product.”
26/2/2015 5:00 PM CUT

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munsterlog2 wrote:
Avoid this at all costs
Had two units both faulty first had noisy fan and controls that switched themselves off after a few minutes and the second replacement unit switches itself off after. A few minutes too. Very disappointing as I bought this based on Which’s positive review.
24/1/2015 1:22 PM CUT

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mbeams wrote:
Total dud
Just like so many other reviewers I’ve had the same issue. The unit wasn’t even two weeks old when it started cutting out. Initially I was able to remedy this by switching it off and on at the mains but this now has no effect either. If I’m lucky I get about then minutes worth of heating out of it, which is frankly not good enough. Very surprised Which haven’t recognised this in the Best Buy feature and that John Lewis still sell them.
23/1/2015 12:51 PM CUT

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LiverpoolLou wrote:
and yet another dissatisfied customer
I was convinced that the other reviewers must have been unlucky. After all it is easier to complain rather than praise but I have to say that exactly the same thing has happened to our heater. It did in fact seem to work well for a couple of days and I even timed it to go on first thing in the morning in the diner/kitchen. However, since then the green flashing light comes on after a minute or so in spite of the appliance being positioned correctly and on a firm level surface. Sometimes it never comes back on again and sometimes it comes back on after 20 mins or so. I tried contacting De Longhi yesterday to see if there was anything I was doing wrong but after 30 mins on hold and recorded messages in my ear, I gave up. I will arrange for John Lewis to pick it up and will not be buying another. Incidentally, I am surprised that Which, after seeing these reviews, hasn’t posted any kind of a reply to them. After all, they recommended this as a Best Buy. I am also surprised that John Lewis are still selling it.
23/1/2015 11:16 AM CUT

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hippocampus wrote:
another dissatisfied customer
Bought this heater about two weeks ago from John Lewis on the basis of the best buy Which? recommendation. After the first week of excellent use the problem others have identified started. The heater’s tilt safety function goes off spontaneously and stops the heater from working. As noted by others it is excellent when it works, but absolutely frustrating when it doesn’t. Think twice before buying.
20/1/2015 11:12 PM CUT

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charliehell wrote:
Faulty Tilt Function
I bought this on the strength of the which best buy score.It was therefore disappointing when after constructing the base of the fan it had to be returned as it would not work for more than 5 minutes before the over sensitive tilt function cut the heater off. “Oh the dreaded green flashing light”. Thereafter it would take anything from 5 minutes to an hour to reset itself and come back on, (even when unplugging and then plugging back in.)The heater was tried on a variety of flat surfaces to make sure my judgement wasn’t unfounded, but alas back it had to go for a refund as it performed just as poorly .
19/1/2015 7:53 PM CUT

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2011-08-06 13:17:20.607 wrote:
same tilt issue – DO NOT BUY
Same issue with anti tilt switch operating randomly. Nothing on the FAQ on delonghi website. Shame will be taking it back for refund. Which should follow this up on behalf of customers.
12/1/2015 1:07 PM CUT

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hubris wrote:
Unusable due to tilt sensor
Bought this because of the glowing review from WHICH but wish that I had read the customer reviews too. When working it was a great heater but unusable to heat a room due to the tilt sensor repeatedly switching it off .The heater was used on a flat tiled surface with no oscillation and still kept cutting out. Returned for a refund.
10/1/2015 3:48 PM CUT

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Elizabethan wrote:
Elizabethan’s disoppointment
At first it appeared to the best heater I ever bought due to its rapid heating of a large room. The heater is also light to carry around, very stylish and a delightful in appearance. After the 3d use the abominable flip over safety switch started kicking in as soon as we turned the oscillation mode on, and even when we turned this off the heater wouldn’t start even if switched off for a while to try to reset it. Took it back and got a full refund
5/1/2015 5:47 PM CUT

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2010-12-30 12:19:01.243 wrote:
Faulty tip up sensor
This was a good heater until the tip up sensor started acting up and stopping the heater from operating. This happens many times a day, have to unplug and then start again and it sometimes does not reset itself even then. Seems a common fault as other reviewers on Amazon and Argos all report the same fault!
30/12/2014 1:26 PM CUT

marketron wrote:
marketron
Does everything reported by Which but, unfortunately, due to the “tilt” function random operation, making the unit, essentially, unusable, and the unit’s inability to reset itself (as per instruction leaflet), I have had to return it for a refund.Great shame as this heater, when working correctly, is the best of it’s type I have ever owned.
30/12/2014 10:05 AM CUT

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Regie50 wrote:
A warm room at last!
Just picked up today, easy to set up. Pleased with the operation, remote control limited buttons, but does control the unit OK
3/12/2014 9:24 PM CUT

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Useful to know Duncan.

Heating IS important and not wasting time money and effort on faulty goods leaves more money to pay for heating.

I was of course highlighting that for many buying this top Which? Best Buy has been a annoying and expensive experience. There are very few testing consumer groups and they need to be on top of what they do if they are to be relied upon.

A re-testing of the heaters ought to be done if a common fault appears. It does not have to be an expensive test and report back in the relevant thread. Which’s practice of testing a single machine is cheap but not really gold standard.

From my fondness of reading US articles I am aware of the Chineses practice of substituting lesser components from the type in the initial batches so what may have been good no longer is recommendable.

To preserve Which?’s good name the whole testing regime needs to become more responsive to subscribers legitimate complaints and experience. I have previously highlighted the Logik’s steamer which I believe to be a low volume seller for Curry’s where nearly 30 subscribers are expressing disbelief and ire at its staus and land of durabillity. Which? sent a survey, several months ago, to an unmentioned number of Connect panel members specifically about the Logiks. No results have beeen published.

Which? earns more from one top Best Buy logo licensing deal then it earns from 150 subscribers per year.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

http://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fuel-poverty-detailed-tables-2013

Published in 2015. Interesting reading and does confirm that the biggest group of sufferers are in detached houses. Those with the least heating problems in purpose built flats.

Other figures confirm the fairly well-known fact that buildings with more external walls are tougher to keep warm. There are systems to insulate end walls and perhaps Which? would like to sample and report on a few, actually given Which? testing, get the Buildings Research Establishment to carry out the tests of efficacy, costs etc.

gov.uk/government/statistics/fuel-poverty-detailed-tables-2013

Published in 2015. Interesting reading and does confirm that the biggest group of sufferers are in detached houses. Those with the least heating problems in purpose built flats.

Other figures confirm the fairly well-known fact that buildings with more external walls are tougher to keep warm. There are systems to insulate end walls and perhaps Which? would like to sample and report on a few, actually given Which? testing, get the Buildings Research Establishment to carry out the tests of efficacy, costs etc.

dieseltaylor, “the biggest group of sufferers are in detached houses.” One of the groups of people I pointed out earlier would pay more if we adopted Which?’s “simple unit cost” proposal.

I have recently been looking at new detached houses with an EPC ‘B’ rating as I have put my house on the market. How reliable are these EPC ratings. Can anyone enlighten as to their energy savings properties please?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Beryl – I have been looking for technical answers to your question but failed [so far]. The best I can glean is that it would appear from the border of B and C there is an improvement best thought of a percentage less heating required to get the required effect. Based on EU legislation 2002 as intepreted by the UK government and put into law.

That is my current understanding.

One thing that I think provides the most bangs for the buck once a house is reasonably well-built is an air-exchange system where warm moist air is mechanically exchanged past fresh incoming air. This pre-heats the incoming air and makes the most of the air you have already heated. Does your intended property have it? How much would a retrofit be [not necessarily a lot]?

From Wikipedia
UK building regulations require one air change every two hours (0.5 ACH). With traditional extract-only ventilation that means your boiler has to warm up a house full of cold air 12 times a day.[3]

http://www.ecohome.net/guide/ventilation-air-exchangers
http://makezine.com/projects/heat-exchanger/

Simply explained concept. Per haps Which? should be investigating the technical aspects and report and test what is available in the EU.

ecohome.net/guide/ventilation-air-exchangers
ecohome.net/guide/choosing-between-hrv-erv

Simply explained concepts. fill in the http://www. yourself if necessary 🙂

Which? should be investigating the technical aspects and report and test what is available in the EU.

Many thanks Duncan and Diesel f.or your replies.

I have found that most of the websites I have checked, including Which? will go into great detail about EPC’s energy saving ratios which is largely common sense, but it would be useful to know what constitutes the subtle
difference for example between a B and C rating. This is an important consideration when buying new homes to establish the cost of maintaining it.

I would be interested to know if house builders can offer homes with better EPC ratings at additional cost, in the same way that they often offer other options for new homes.

I would assume you can specify triple glazing, solar panels, maybe a ground source heat pump, for example if you get in at an early stage. However you may want to weight up the capital cost against the energy savings likely.

A heat pump was the main option I had in mind. I know people who have been very happy with them, particularly because their houses were in a village with no mains gas.

It is interesting in France to see many houses have heat pumps. In Japan it was/is a hugely supported technology and has made a significant difference to the energy scene due to its high efficiency.

It would make a significant difference in the UK’s overall performance in those areas where mains gas is not available. There is air-souce and ground-source variants.

This might make a good topic for a new Conversation. There are bound to be users of this site with experience and others who would like to have more information before taking the plunge. Used in conjunction with solar panels, there would be the option of free air conditioning on hot sunny days.

Looking at the French tax code I see the capital cost of eco-friendly heating is tax deductible – and this includes heat-pumps.

Perhaps Which? would care to pressure the government with a sign-up campaign for similar tax benefits. Particularly for those areas without mains gas like the Highlands and Islands.

The expansion of heat exchange technology for homes will also reduce the demand for more power generation capacity where I understand this winter the UK will be down to a historically low and worrisome safety margin.

Of course this does solve all problems but Which? will at least be doing something practical by a very specific suggestion [subject to correct analysis] rather than more airy-fairy petitions. Plus the research commissioned at BRE and Which? will be seen in a better light.

Bringing mains gas to many remote areas would be very costly, but helping those without mains gas in the way you suggest would be better use of money.

Beryl, to add (I hope!) to what has been said, the EPC includes an “energy efficiency rating” on a scale of 0-100 that is banded into letters. C=69-80, B = 81-91 and A is above 92. Essentially it relates to how much energy your house is likely to use. Our house has a rating 78=band C. The certificate says I can raise this to 79 by fitting low energy lighting to all outlets, to 80 by installing solar water heating, and to 89 – Band B – by installing solar photovoltaic panels. Cost £15-26k estimated on the certificate. Need to save a lot of energy to recoup that.

thegreenage.co.uk/how-much-energy-does-my-home-use/

At last a site with calculations and all. I am pleased to provide this information to the users of Which? Conversations ; )

So we can all take the information and spread the knowledge. I do also have a great site for shutters etc for the older building.

Perhaps Which? should create a user group drawing on the intelligence and experience of its members?

If Which? is correct about the inability of UK citizens to work out a prospective energy bill, given a daily standing charge and a unit cost, how on earth are they going to estimate the energy requirement of their home? However, I do not believe many Brits are as dumb as Which? would have us believe, so I think there is hope that a significant number could make estimates of energy savings, even if they are based on simple generic information. This seems a useful site even if it is produced – *** forbid – by a commercial profit making organisation.

Thanks for the replies, I will make a point of enquiring re solar panel heating if it is included in the price of the house plus whatever else comes with a B rating. My present house is D rated so I am hoping the money saved on energy will compensate for the higher council tax I will be expected to pay.

It looks as if The GreenAge website is there to promote commercial services. That’s certainly not hidden.

There’s certainly some interesting information on the website, but I’m a little concerned about this:

“We may disclose your personal information to third parties:

In the event that we sell or buy any business or assets, in which case we may disclose your personal data to the prospective seller or buyer of such business or assets.
TheGreenAge Ltd is a company and if substantially all of its assets are acquired by a third party, in which case personal data held by it about its customers will be one of the transferred assets.”

Actually that is a very fair clause and came out in the US in a court case where one on-line site was taking over another and some were trying to argue about their information being provided to the incoming firm.

This makes it explicit whereas I am not sure in the UK we have anything as clear.

I’m always glad to see clear information, even if I am not keen on what I read.

Having said that. I am not keen on any organisation passing on my contact details to third parties without my written consent.

The problem with take-overs is that the acquiring company becomes your new supplier and inherits not only your contract but all the data that goes with it. Our details are part of the stock-in-trade of a telecoms company and make up a large part of the asset that was coveted and subsequently bought by the acquirer. Unless discontinuity of supply was imposed while people reassigned their data I cannot see much alternative. The important point is to have strong data protection rules to provide security and deter misuse.

My opinion is that EVERY subscriber/buyer should have the right to cancel if their is a takeover. Recently I was asked if I was happy to have my shares transferred to a nominee company as the holding company was giving up the share-holding business.

I was given three options and transferring them into certificated and returning them to me -at the cost of the firm giving-up. This is acceptable practice.

I thing this type of choice should be provided whenever a firm is taken over. I am with Tesco for two of my contracts and will be sold to TT shortly. Will I get a choice of continuing or not? Which? do the business ahead of time and find out what is happening for us poor subscribers.

Shareholders are in a completely different position to customers bound by a contract. The latter are effectively captive whereas shareholders usually have choices and can take the money and go. As TheGreenAge Ltd makes perfectly clear in the piece quoted above by Wavechange, in the event of a takeover, “personal data held by it about its customers will be one of the transferred assets.” Such data would not be much of an asset if there was a possibility that an unpredictable number of the contracted customers would quit and take their business somewhere else. This might sound like an unfair situation but quite a number of the mergers and acquisitions in the telecoms industry have been considered to be beneficial and customers of languishing companies have welcomed coming under a better organisation. When entering into a contractual relationship with a service provider people need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of that position alongside the advantages of freedom to come and go offered by pay-as-you-go. Each model has a set of consequences attached to it but the customer has the choice of which to accept.

That would not apply in the case of The GreenAge, unless they are taken over.

At present the comments are out of sequence and my post was a response to Dieseltaylor.

To return to the main theme of this article, if many on either low wages or inadequate pensions and benefits really cannot afford to properly heat and light their homes, then I doubt that the CMA will be able to do much more than tinker at the margins of this issue.

I don’t think we should be looking to the CMA to “get us off the hook” from the much wider issues involved in how, as a society, we take care of our poor and elderly.

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We have to respect the electorate’s verdict, especially since it was so recent, but sometimes the choices available could be more helpful! It appears that the main opposition party might have belatedly realised that but it might not have enhanced their electability. The significant feature was the squeezing out [almost into oblivion] of the moderating influences on national policy.

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JW – The electorate did not actually vote for the Conservatives the victory is a function of the constituency system. A third of the country’s 2015 voters got their party elected.

The claim for the right to govern when the majority of voters did not support you ought to be tempered by some humility. but then politicians …. : )

Duncan / all. I was really just talking about plain old poverty – without any buzzwords, slogans or labels. My experiences suggest that, when folk don’t have enough money to make ends meet, they don’t distinguish between their ability (or inability) to afford food and their inability to put more money on the leccy and gas meters. All they can see is that they must either get more money from somewhere or make do without adequate food and warmth.

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I think that’s right Derek. There are big questions around this issue that never get aired.

It seems to me that the first thing to do with energy costs is to get the burden of the government’s levies and impositions on those bills off the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable. Absorbing them into general taxation would probably be the fairest thing to do.

Recognising that age, disability and financial hardship are not the only factors impacting on energy consumption would also be a good start. Many people have little or no alternative to living in a hard-to-heat house, and if they are the sole survivor trying to eke out a single pension then life is doubly tough. The stock answer – “they should move” – is both insulting and usually ignorant of the realities. Reliefs available from local authorities are means-based and presume optimal occupation of accommodation; importantly they do not factor in the insulation values of the property which might be beyond the capacity of the resident to improve. There is not a house in this land that cannot have its heat retention values enhanced by a relatively simple and economical scheme. It might not look wonderful, it might not last a century, it might not be the complete solution, and it might make the building control inspectors cringe . . . but the important thing is it might just make life more comfortable and cheaper for the vulnerable people living there. When coal-burning stoves and hearths had to be replaced under the Clean Air Act programmes in the 1960’s local councils got on with it and ensured every home in a zone could burn smokeless fuel. The same approach is needed now. Energy companies should have a part to play in this as they might be more efficient than local councils – but given the indiscriminate way in which they dished out free light bulbs to discharge their carbon-reduction obligations I am not too optimistic.

Not everyone has relatives available to look after them and see they get on the best tariff. Neighbours might not be in a position or wiling to help. Hundreds of thousands of people are on their own. Recent statistics show that a very large number of eligible people are not in receipt of their pension credit entitlement and this is despite considerable publicity surrounding it from CABx and AgeUK. There is no effective outreach programme to address this shortfall in uptake, and yet this is an easy-fix compared with some of the remedies often propounded.

It will be interesting to see how close the CMA comes to addressing these issues because for some of the people cited in the Intro it is not the unfairness of the energy market that affects them but the structural problems of the welfare and housing policies.

It would be good if winter fuel payments went to help those who need them. I wonder how many of these payments have helped pay golf club subscriptions and supported those whose main financial problem is to minimise the inheritance tax their kids will pay when they pass on.

I totally agree with that. We live a big new-build house that costs very little to heat and the WFP is completely unnecessary. I waste my time on a certain website that costs nothing to enjoy rather than hoofing round a golf course but I should be more than happy to see the payment removed and transferred to effective relief for the people I was thinking about in my comments above.

I have heard arguments that it would cost more to reallocate the WFP than to keep it as a universal and indiscriminate supplement but that is just political hogwash. They already tinker with it to split it between two people at the same address. The data is available and the software is simple. It would save the government a lot in bank charges and postage to make a sensible change.

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My view is that vital support should be the responsibility of the government and not left to charities. I have no problem with charities enhancing people’s lives. The government should also be tackling the problem that many are not planning for the future and may be living their lives in debt despite having a good income.

Are you saying, Duncan, that households like mine should continue to get the winter fuel payment, even though it is hardly necessary in our case, because it might be difficult to make sure it goes to more deserving households? Even ex-pats who bought a place in the sun have been getting it. At least that has been stopped for those living in countries where the average annual temperature is higher than the south west of England. It was costing £22 million a year that is now available to provide more targetted reliefs. It still leaves large numbers of pensioners on high incomes or with considerable wealth drawing this allowance. If handled properly no millionaires would get a tax cut and many needy people could get a worthwhile income boost.

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duncan lucas says:
Wavechange -you are talking about Universal Benefits when you mention winter fuel payments while I see your point of view you know what happens when the government gets hold of a Universal Benefit ? it finds ways of removing it and turning it into a commercial enterprise so that only those at a level of begging in the streets get any and even then ways are found to deprive them …..

+ 1, D L

You are lucky to receive one energy bill a year. This makes it impossible to budget. All providers should be made to give quarterly bills and send someone to read the meter quarterly.

Nationalise the energy and drugs industry, Stop the rip offs.

“Up to a point, Lord Copper.”

The problem with that move is that :
The same CEO spivs who are running them now will be handed those responsibilities again.
The same Executive Directors, and NED spivs who are running them now will be handed those responsibilities again.
The Spiv-Oligarch class will be in an ideal position to sabotage the efficient running of those industries so that as soon as the True Rulers get back into power, the whole shebang can be Fire-Sale-Sold again !
A radical variation of a CO-OPerative, Common Ownership model is needed where all citizen-subjects are shareholders, but shares cannot be bought, sold, transferred or otherwise negotiated. Death or emigration results in reversion of shares to a common reserve, which itself is non-negotiable.
Lots morer detail to complete the plan, but ….
Did you realize that it’s only in the last few 100 years that it’s not been a Capital offence to even attempt to buy and / or sell, land.
”How can one trade in something which belongs to god?” it was asserted.
Water, wind, coal, gas, … ?

I am working and so is my wife and we probably earn well over the national average wage between us, however, we are not immune to rising gas and electricity prices. We are more likely these days to reach for a fleece or a blanket before we turn on the heating. My heart goes out to those less fortunate, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to make a choice between keeping warm and eating.

What annoys me is the way our bills are sent every 6 months in the Autumn ,and in the Spring. This means that we get one high bill in the Spring which covers the Winter and one low bill in the Autumn that covers the summer. If the energy suppliers sent out the bills,one in mid Summer and one in mid Winter, the bills would balance out as they would then both include the hot and the cold times of the year and make budgeting easier. This would also stop the energy company’s putting up the prices in autumn just in time for the heaviest time of usage.

I find that paying in monthly instalments averages out the payments over the year and then there is an annual review that resets the instalment payment in the light of the actual consumption and predicted prices. It’s not perfect but it does avoid the peaks and troughs which you experience. Price and tariff changes seem to take place at random times, often in relation to other companies’ changes, but obviously the impact is always more apparent after the cold season.

Hello everybody, I find it utterly amazing how these companies can put your energy cost up in a heartbeat! But you have to protest too get a reduction. And the government couldn’t care less. While the old and the poor freeze to death. Unbelievable!!!

That why a major rethink of the Winter Fuel Payment is desperately needed to give it where it’s needed.

Come off it, Blue Bird ;-))
It’s peanuts.
It’s a distraction.
Slap it on the Tax bill, tax it, and
”10p is your blood relation” .

It’s about time someone spoke up for the thousands of us who not on the gas grid.
I live on a development with a communal LPG tank and only by banding together have the residents been able to negotiate a reasonable price with our present supplier.
LPG is notoriously expensive and the price never seems to follow the price of oil.

Energy prices used to be so cheap in copmarison with earning – and benefits at the time. Now they have soared beyond belief with privatisation bringing in high earners with obscene salaries in addition to investors. Although Nationaisation will never again be an option, I think some Government intervention would be adviseable in order to make the companies properly accountable to its customers. For instance, when they have made high profits over and above what is considered acceptable (such as hoarding profits from cheaper fuel costs to themselves.) there should be a limit to them of, say, 20% with the rest being passed on to the ever suffering consumer. It would be helpful, also, if persons of a certain age – and taking into consideration any medical problems – were allowed huge discounts. But then, that would be a matter of conscience wouldn’t it?

Stripping out the government levies and obligations from energy bills would make a big contribution to the relief you seek Bill. It would be much fairer if these were transferred to general [direct and indirect] taxation.

The failure of regulation to ensure effective competition is another factor; there is still evidence of “follow my leader” in price setting such that the only way is up.

Details, please, J W.

”Although Nationalisation will never again be an option,… ”
——–
Nor should it be:

The problems with such a move would be that :
The same CEO spivs who are running them now will be handed those responsibilities again.
The same Executive Directors, and NED spivs who are running them now will be handed those responsibilities again.
The Spiv-Oligarch class will be in an ideal position to sabotage the efficient running of those industries so that as soon as the True Rulers get back into power, the whole shebang can be Fire-Sale-Sold again !
A radical variation of a CO-OPerative, Common Ownership model is needed where all citizen-subjects are shareholders, but shares cannot be bought, sold, transferred or otherwise negotiated. Death or emigration results in reversion of shares to a common reserve, which itself is non-negotiable.
Lots more detail to complete the plan, but ….
Did you realize that it’s only in the last few 100 years that it’s not been a Capital offence to even attempt to buy and / or sell, land.
”How can one trade in something which belongs to god?” it was asserted.
Water, wind, coal, gas, … ?

As I have previously posted, I believe anyone earning more than the average UK income, currently about £27,000 pa, should not be eligible to receive WF payments.

It is possible to reduce your bills by turning your heating down a few degrees (never off) and investing in suitable thermal underwear and ankle length fur bootees for very cold days and for the immobile elderly, wrapping yourself up in a lightweight but warm and comforting Slanket with sleeves and a pouch for your feet, or you can just put it over your knees.

Or live in what would be a Bed-Sit, in your own house, and stay in bed all day and night ?

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COME ON, come on, come on, D L

From my recent experience of this general sector, especially as the V & Cs have become Agents of the Tory State, these platforms [Other than Which? ] are populated by young thrusting entrepreneurs with their eyes on high office, high salaries, positions in Parliamentary associated Think Tanks, and positions on influential committees – believe me, I’ve seen it, and am seeing it
They are concerned with enhancing their CVs, puffing their Profiles via ”Likes” on the Social Media, and Bigging their reputations by any means possible.
And there’s me, re-joining Which? after a # of years absence – mainly ‘coz of c**p Best Buys bought, to join a real Campaigning Group.

Today, once again, I am being asked to sign Which?’s petition for “Fair energy prices”. I would be more impressed if Which? also said how they would achieve these – and do they mean “cheaper” prices, or do they mean helping those who genuinely cannot afford to heat their homes properly?

For the latter I believe it is for government to help the genuinely vulnerable, through welfare, using our taxes. This is not the job of the energy suppliers; they will not have the information necessary to decide who is in this category, and I would not want them to hold this kind of sensitive information.
As for prices, energy intrinsically is not cheap. So fair prices to me means firstly ensuring all have access to the same deals (unless they are deliberate poor payers).

For “fair prices” simply taking people off “Standard tariffs” and putting them on fixed price tariffs will not work – the latter are subsidised by the former, so their prices will rise to maintain the margin. We need to go back to a very few basic tariffs that give a choice to consumers depending on their usage. Two tier tariffs (with fixed costs built in) for those on low usage, a single unit tariff plus minimum standing charge for those on normal usage, (so that we all contribute towards the costs that are not dependent upon consumption), and a time-dependent tariff for those who choose to use substantial proportion of their energy off peak .

We should strip out the government levies and put those into taxation – these add between 5 and 15% to your bill – and are then subject to vat!

So what is a “fair” price? Does Which? mean costs are rigged so that we are overcharged? If so they need to provide evidence. The CMA have already investigated this. Does Which? mean all energy prices should be subsidised?

I’d like Which? not just to set a campaign going but provide constructive and realistic proposals as to how to achieve it. I would like lower taxes, cheaper food, more affordable housing, and reduced household bills. But those are just wishes. The “how we do it” is crucial to supporting a wish.

”We should strip out the government levies and put those into taxation – these add between 5 and 15% to your bill – and are then subject to vat!”
——–
You mean like Taxes, National Insurance, …. ?