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What do you think about your energy supplier?

We’ve published the results of our annual energy satisfaction survey – once again finding that the Big Six energy suppliers aren’t up to scratch. So, is your energy supplier one of the best or one of the worst?

In our latest energy company satisfaction survey we asked 8,902 people about their experiences with their energy suppliers. And once again we’ve found that the smaller energy companies are topping the table for customer satisfaction. There’s a distinct gap in customer satisfaction between them and the Big Six (those are Npower, British Gas, Scottish Southern Electric, Eon, EDF Energy, and Scottish Power).

Does size matter?

Overall the average customer score for satisfaction from their energy company was just 53%. But, smaller companies certainly seem to be leading the way.

OVO Energy once again came out on top with an 82% satisfaction score, and were closely followed by Good Energy with 81%.

Nicki told us that her experience with a smaller energy company has been positive:

‘They are always friendly and helpful – unlike my experiences with other suppliers. I haven’t had any problems, I like the app and that they are using more sustainable energy where possible.’

The Big Six companies continue to lag behind the small companies, with none featuring in the top group of our survey. Disappointingly Npower have come last for the sixth year running with a 41% satisfaction rating.

In response to our findings, Npower’s Managing Director, Simon Stacey said:

We’re really disappointed to see these results. We have been focussing our efforts on improving our overall customer service and we are seeing results improve in some key areas as this report shows. For example, complaints have dropped by nearly 70% compared to last year. We recognise we still have a huge amount of work ahead of us to do and we’re absolutely determined to get it completed as fast as we can.

Interestingly, what we found was that almost nine in ten of the people we surveyed remain customers of the Big Six suppliers, and only one in ten having switched energy provider in the past year.

As a customer of larger suppliers, Sandra shared with us her experience with us:

‘I switched in 2014 from Npower to Eon. The process was difficult, and I had to submit meter readings on 4 occasions before the switch went through. Npower was a nightmare – up until the end of July I was still receiving estimated bills.’

We need a fix

In 2015 our research found that household energy bills should be reduced to reflect the lower wholesale energy costs. And then again, last week we saw in the news that wholesale gas and electricity had fallen by nearly a third in a year, yet energy companies have failed to lower bills in response. So far we’ve only seen British Gas cut prices in the last six months, but this was just 5%.

As Sean from Aberdeen put it:

‘Consumers consistently pay a ridiculous amount of money for gas and electricity, allowing energy suppliers to make record breaking profits, yet when there are reductions in the cost of energy production suppliers never pass savings on to consumers.’

With the current cold weather, people paying over the odds for their energy on top of poor customer satisfaction in the Big Six suppliers, we need to fix the broken energy market. If the Competition and Market Authority’s energy market inquiry is to be a success it has to set out proposals that will address the appalling levels of customer service, switching and value for money.

It’s time for these energy companies to up their game and provide the service their customers deserve. If you agree that with us then back our campaign today.


So over to you, what have your experiences been like with your energy supplier?

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“Sign our petition for fair energy prices”. I want fair energy prices but I also want to know what “fair prices” should be. Clearly as raw fuel prices fall I’d expect my energy bill to follow, but I want to know by how much. As fuel is only 42% of the typical dual fuel bill, we need to look hard at other other components and see whether they are fair, including government-imposed costs, smart meters and so on.

In a nutshell, I think to pursue this campaign Which? should assess just what are fair prices for gas and electricity. We can then judge whether we are being overcharged, and by how much.

Which?, I think your campaign needs to be supported by more information. You need to put in some groundwork. Or work with Ofgem to set down some benchmark figures.

Profile photo of James Taylor
Member

Hi Malcolm,

Thank you for your response. We think the energy market in the UK is broken and needs to be urgently fixed that’s why we are calling on the Competition and Marketing Authority to deliver a fairer energy market for all.

Millions of people are paying over the odds for their energy and there are too many people on poor value standard tariffs. In the last decade energy bills have risen by a shocking 73%, and in July the CMA themselves found that energy bills, on average, are 5% more expensive then they need to be. This to us, is unfair.

In a more competitive energy market then we would expect to see prices falling as wholesale costs fall. This is backed by our own research from February last year which found that energy bills should have been up to £145 lower than they actually were. One year on, with wholesale prices even lower, it raises big questions about whether bills should have dropped even further.

With everyone’s help and support we can keep pushing the regulator, the CMA as well as energy companies to deliver fair prices for the public.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

James, I agree with all you say about a fairer market. But these are sentiments. What I was asking for were concrete proposals from Which?, and Ofgem, as to the detail of a fair market. I’d like to see :
– a proper analysis of the market to determine what unit prices should be, based on wholesale prices, transmission costs, government levies, reasonable profit margin and so on. This might be a range of prices but at least would give consumers a guide to whether their costs are fair, taken in conjunction with customer service, green energy and so on.
– I’d like fixed price tariffs abolished – most no longer carry penalties – and use a basic variable tariff and, for very low users, a two tier tariff. If all users were persuaded to move from the existing standard tariff to a fixed price one, the price of the latter would have to rise substantially to maintain profitability so it would only be a short term fix
— a thorough investigation of standing charges to see if they are appropriate and, if so, what they should be based on. I believe that the costs that are not dependent upon consumption should be paid by all consumers. They all depend equally upon their supply connection being maintained, reading their meter and administering their account is not affected by consumption, and smart meters (damn them) will cost all equally. But they must be kept to the essentials only, all suppliers should apply them on a common basis, and they should be approved by Ofgem.

I want to see proper proposals that can be discussed, not just a wish to see “lower” and “fairer”. It will require some work.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I switched to Ovo recently and have no cause for complaint. The fact that it is a smaller company appeals to me because I am increasingly dissatisfied with large companies.

When I left Scottish Power I had to push them to refund the credit on my account, but they only refunded part of the balance and I now have a second cheque to pay in. Despite providing regular readings, Scottish Power put my direct debit payments up and down and never even sent an email when they increased the dd by 40% when I had a healthy credit balance. Before Scottish Power, I was with e.on but they kept putting up my payments even though I had a large credit balance. At least they informed me before making changes.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Same thing happened to me with SP wavechange -using the money “kept ” by them in high interest banks ,never got it all back also . Just transferred from BG last month to eco -Co-op so still too early to judge them.

Member
Levity says:
19 January 2016

I’m now with OVO Energy. Although my credit balance has built up, they pay 3% interest on it and refund it quickly when requested, so I am not unhappy about it.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

The Opposition sees nationalisation as the way out of this situation, providing greater accountability, lower prices and better service with security of supply. I don’t recall those features in the 1980’s just before the gas and electricity markets were privatised.

As Malcolm says above, loading government levies and charges onto consumer bills has distorted the cost of energy. Take those away and it would be so much more transparent and better comparisons could be made.

I think there is a natural inertia with switching to a small company. For such an essential commodity where reliability of service is paramount people are reluctant to put their faith in small suppliers.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

I would be a bit mixed on this subject
I am well old enough to remember the 70s and 80s and where I am utility privatisation has done nothing good.
I think we’re back with advantages for the many. Those of us who live in the sticks quite simply dont have as much choice
A bit like middle England more of less abandoning Royal Mail because they can get a parcel delivered for 22p less elsewhere but come to the long deliveries who gets lumbered with the same parcel,,,,,, Royal Mail who are delivering for a loss, literally. If BB cannot deliver it and make money just shove it at RM and RM have no choice
I would not like to see nationalisation of everything but the utilities yes. Water. Electric yes. Phone no, although as BT owns and monopolizes nearly all the lines so maybe why not. No one could call the phone or broadband a modern wonder of privatisation when one company own’s all the lines and that same company sold off its mobile network years ago only now to be buying EE/Orange to become Caesar of our telecoms network again. Sell,,,,,, buy,,,,,, dividends,,,,,,,??? And my internet. At 5/30 this eve it was taking circa 45 secs to open a new page.
Rural broadband is rubbish. Privatisation is great, who’s paying for the rural broadband upgrades that never arrive. Everyone, the tax payer. Privatisation, rubbish
British Steel, no thanks. British Leyland, what a disaster. Coal, no thanks, far too dirty anyhow.
As to being connected via a small company???
The elec grid is the elec grid. The gas grid is the gas grid. Large company, small company the supply comes via the one and same grid.
Swapping from Scottish Power to CO=OP whatevername does not change the wires or pipework, simply the bill and the rate. Maybe the meter but not always
There are many who dont have much choice and where that is the case there is barely a real noticable difference if one sits down with a calculator. I dont need and app to count kwh V Pence

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I think the concern over switching to a small company is not over the reliability of supply but whether it will be able to maintain higher standards of customer service than the big firms and whether it will be able to continue offering lower tariffs. So far the signs are that they can and these concerns might therefore be misplaced.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

I think John you are in the three storey house as you are in a fairly built up area and you want a simple home life with as little breakdowns as possible
I do not begrudge your wants or needs for all my rural disadvantages I choose to live where I am but I could be easily started about services as we have rubbish services
I think that referring to small companies is perhaps an oversight
If any company is able to enter mainstream elec/gas it is far from small in real terms. It may be far from as large as the big six but the big six have been shown to be far from perfect especially as there is a difficulty in being an oil boiler man, a gas boiler man, a combi boiler man, and tahst before we add the dryers, cookers and dear knows what else
Given the choice I favour the smaller local business’s for these services rather than the multinationals

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

We actually live in the country with deer roaming around the houses and our outlook is water meadows. E.On have served us well since we moved here and there is no reason to change at the moment. I have no qualms myself about the small energy companies. Some of them, like Ebico, contract a larger company [SSE Southern Electric] to undertake their billing; I am not up-to-date on Ebico but they used to be good for low consumption [because they had no standing charge] but not good for average and higher consumption because as a consequence their unit rates were high. They seem to be popular with second home owners for obvious reasons.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Dee I have not given up on your rotten broadband . The latest info is that EE is testing and rolling out 4G broadband which gives 24Mb download /20Mb upload in rural Cumbria ,for example . A special hi-gain router is required -£30/month with 20 G allowance. I think you said you have a bad mobile signal as well so this might not work for you and as you are not in a village you cant take part in the action group that helps those with rubbish speeds in rural areas not covered by the roll out . Its called Community Fibre Partnership and your village can buy fast broadband. I think you said you had woods round you and you had a weak mobile signal its a pity ,still trying to work out a solution for you.

Member

I switched to Sainsbury Energy in May 2015 after using Which? comparison site. So far so good as my monthly dd has reduced: my only comments are that they do not send a quarterly email request for meter readings and their bill is rather complicated. Have previously got £150 from the Energy waller from Scottish Power’s poor treaTMENT.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I don’t get a reminder from my supplier either but make a habit of reading my meters each month and submitting them online. I also keep a spreadsheet of the monthly readings against the previous year to see how my usage compares, and to have an annual figure of kWh to use when checking for more favourable tariffs.
I also wonder if ever a gas leak occurred (why would it?) I might at least discover it before I’d lost a lot ( perhaps I suffer from anxiety).

Profile photo of AnthonyHowe
Member

Whilst I think energy prices need to be fair I agree with the earlier comment that Which! should provide us with more facts before asking us to join a band wagon signing another petition.
Also I expect market forces would prevail on pricing if the consumers in that market acted. As these results show, a lot of people complain about the big 6 prices but then 9/10 continue to remain with them. I have switched many many times over the last 15 or more years, to and from the big 6. It usually goes ok. If consumers don’t switch then why should a business do anything different.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Interesting read here. I am pleased to say our brand new supplier Green Star Energy is number three in the listing that covered April to September 2015. We did have a minor blip when the promised daily rate of 10p per day per type appeared to be increased to 20p but this was sorted out in time.

“Citizens Advice has a statutory remit to publish the energy supplier performance data. Citizens Advice took over this role on 1 April 2014 when Consumer Futures became part of Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.

To find out more about what sort of service you can expect from your energy supplier, use our new customer service tool. It allows you to compare key information about what an energy company offers, including opening hours, how often you’ll receive a new bill and the different ways you can get in touch with the company.

Methodology
Weightings
The performance model represents weighted complaints made to the independent bodies, who are Citizens Advice Consumer Service, The Extra Help Unit, and Ombudsman Services:Energy
Weightings have been allocated to reflect the seriousness of the complaint and the time and effort spent by the consumer to get their problem resolved. The weightings in the model place greater emphasis on situations where the consumer has had to repeatedly contact their supplier, or another agency, because the company had failed to deal with their problem. The measures used in the model are outlined below along with their weightings.

Case type
Citizens Advice Consumer Service advice cases
Definition These are cases where a consumer has sought independent advice or help (not information) from Citizens Advice Consumer Service. Please note that due to data protection issues it is not possible for suppliers to have full visibility of these cases.
Weighting 10

Citizens Advice Consumer Service cases referred to energy companies
These are more serious cases received which are referred to the supplier’s dedicated complaint handling team. These include cases where after an initial contact with Citizens Advice Consumer Service the consumer has followed the advice provided and the supplier has not resolved their issue in a reasonable time period. It also includes cases where consumers who have already progressed through or part-way through the company’s complaint procedures and are not getting reasonable resolution.
Weighting 25

Complaints received by Extra Help Unit*
These are complaints from vulnerable consumers that have been referred from Citizens Advice consumer service to the Extra Help Unit (EHU) where a consumer who is vulnerable, has been disconnected or is at risk of disconnection or needs support due to the complexity of the case and has previously tried to resolve their complaint with their supplier and has been unable to do so.
Weighting 25

Cases received by Ombudsman Services:
Energy These are cases accepted by Ombudsman Services: Energy, the industry alternative dispute resolution scheme, because the consumer has been unable to get their complaint resolved for more than eight weeks.
Weighting 30

Calculation of ratios
The number of domestic cases received about each company in each of the categories are multiplied by the weighting factor and then divided by each company’s number of domestic customers.(Customer numbers provided to Ofgem by suppliers as per their social obligations)
The figure is then multiplied by 100,000 to give a ratio per 100,000 customers.”
The total measures for each company are then combined to produce an overall ratio.
The ratios are produced on a quarterly basis. The monthly data points used in the historical graph are a three month rolling average.

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

Sounds very complicated DT! Most of the reasons (excuses if you prefer) for not switching are explained at: bbc co.uk – Energy Switching – Why the Customer Inertia?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

Beryl, thanks for digging that out of the archives.

The piece [vertical phooey] is not about switching but what you think about your supplier. This particular evidence may be lengthy but it does provide the whole basis of the ranking that Citizens Advice produce and I think it excellent and necessary to have a proper basis for any discussion.

As for the BBC article I wholeheartedly agree with the gist of it. People are lazy in certain aspects of their life and without social engineering on a major scale it will always be thus. Joining a switching club where you sign-up and forget would probably be most peoples dream scenario.

I believe that the French consumer charity Que Choisir follows this approach. There may be others.

The BBC from 2011 article is here:
bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14989860

Profile photo of dave newcastle
Member

We had the most dreadful time with First Utility and switched to Ovo in April 2014. Our experience with Ovo has been very good. Meanwhile I note from a recent BBC TV program that First Utility continue to abuse customers in the same manner as they abused us including sending emails threatening to take legal action for non- existent unpaid bills. As I have stated in other energy conversations in my opinion First Utility should not be allowed to deal with the public. However, this does not appear to be the opinion of the energy regulator. Perhaps it is time for a new regulator.

Member
Pete says:
20 January 2016

I think my biggest disappointment to far is Sainsburys Energy removing the Nectar bonuses from their current tariff mid-way through the contract.
I picked them as a provider because the “cashback” offered from the Nectar points for meter readings etc. made them the cheapest. However they recently changed their incentive scheme which means I won’t receive half the expected points now.

Profile photo of RyanW
Member

I have to say I am disappointed with the latest energy supplier review. It seemed biased towards paying by direct debit.
The reviews don’t seem to reflect the prices of prepayment meters. For example, the recommended provider Ovo still charges over £2 a week standing charge on both gas and electricity. So although it approximately 0.4 pence cheaper per unit their overall cost is higher as you have to pay £200 a year before you pay for the electricity and gas you use.
I use Ebico for my prepayment meters and they do not apply a standing charge. So during the summer I only spent £20 on gas for three months. Whereas with Ovo I would have had a standing charge of £24 before the £20 of gas.
How is that acceptable? Especially as prepayment meters are used by those already in fuel poverty.

In my opinion a recommended supplier needs to work for all the customers, both direct debit and prepayment.

Member
Tracey says:
19 February 2016

Npower are having trouble with ‘HEATWISE’ the readings from a meter that gives 4 different readings. Having erratic energy bills since sept 2015. After a meter check thats working ok. But they closed my account and have not been able to rectify my complaint to this day!!

Profile photo of Jimthefirsty1
Member

Having had problems with two of the Big Six companies I turned to Co-Op Energy,for most of last year I was having problems getting into my account, there appeared to be problems in their system,passwords were being rejected,password changed but still a problem,for a while all okay however problem is back,when giving my meter readings earlier i mentioned this and was informed i would be contacted,this did not happen.
I am now considering changing my supplier, not one of the big boys,is there a table setting out the also rans?

Profile photo of LyndaArnold
Member

I think most of us worry about high energy bills. I try to be very careful with what I use to keep my bills down but it is always in the back of my mind especially during these colder months. I switched to Southern Electric which at the time seemed like a good deal for me but I am going to keep a close eye on my bills and useage. We consumers do not really have much control over things we really need like gas and electric which is quite worrying. we must keep fighting for fair prices for everyone without complicated details to study and usually just confuse us even more. Keep things clear and simple so we know where we stand. Trouble is these days a lot of us feel we just cannot trust big companies to act in our best interests , they usually act in their best interests .

regards Lynda

Profile photo of DAVIDGOSS
Member

I AM WITH FIRST UTILITY AND THEY HAVE PUT MY DUAL FUEL UP BY £72.00 PER YEAR.

Profile photo of BrianPaterson
Member

I’m with OVO energy, having switched from NPower some years ago. I have found the service from OVO to be extremely efficient, professional and good value for money. Phone calls are generally answered immediately or a call back can be arranged. I have always found Ovo’s customer service representatives to be helpful, friendly and very knowledgeable. I would urge anyone with one of the big suppliers to switch as soon as possible to OVO or possibly one of the other smaller suppliers. I find continuing the arrogance of the big suppliers to be appalling, and suspect the only way they will change their attitude is when they find customers leaving them in ever increasing numbers. Switching is easy and you will not regret it.

Profile photo of PeterFieldBalcombe
Member

Npower are the worst company of any type that I have ever come across in any field within the UK
in the last 55 years. Their generally good staff are tied by the most appalling procedures and rules.

Nil out of 10 for customer relations.

Nil out of 10 for billing.

Nil out of 10 for inter departmental communications.

Nil out of 10 for responding.

Must I go on! they are just crap at everything!

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Peter-you arent an ex-headmaster are you ? ,glad I am not with Npower -three of the belt -cross handed for them.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Corporal punishment has been phased out, but we definitely need more corporation punishment to improve standards in the commercial world.

Profile photo of DeeKay
Member

Corporal punishment may have been phased out but bullying is still around and there are no better bullies than Big Business. .

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Hence my suggestion of corporation punishment. Not fines that are passed on as higher costs for customers but punishment for the senior staff who behave irresponsibly.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Perhaps the senior executives who have committed commercial misdemeanours could be sent out to read the meters for a month [I suggest February].

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

I don’t think they’d mind doing that, unless the punishment involved swapping swapping their executive pay for a meter reader’s wage.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Naturally – it goes without saying.

Member
joy fox says:
28 June 2016

Martin Lewis recomended we change if we have been with the same company British gas, Places for people energy was who he recomended. Signed up over 3 months ago, They have not sent me a bill on line so as i can see what were paying after 4 requests. Paying by direct debit , I do not know how long we are commited to stay with them feeling frustrated I’m not getting any answer’s, The next reading is the 1st July. I send emails i receive one back we will be in touch with in 5 days. I had no problem with British gas ML said about changing as were pensioners i thought we might be able to save a little bit..

Member
James Turner says:
8 January 2017

Because as a pensioner I pay my gas monthly by payment card, that is as I use it, and pay any difference when the quarterly bill comes in, Scottish Gas is being a pain because I pay a day or two later than the 24th of month. In December they issued a letter on 23rd stating that they had not received my December payment, which wasn’t due till 24th and which I in fact paid on 24th. They even got the amounts wrong and subsequently their call centre in South Africa cancelled the payment plan. When I then requested the refund of the credit on my account they tried to decline this on spurious reasons. I raised the whole issue with Mark Hodges the Chief Executive, but hold out little hope of any useful progress. From a purely commercial viewpoint it would appear advantageous to the company to have customers paying as they use the product rather than 3 months in arrears, but Scottish Gas don’t seem to understand that concept. Clearly the levels of staff incompetence and lack of any social conscience towards vulnerable customers pervades this over-grown organisation! That is the natural consequence of having call centres abroad in order to minimise costs rather than providing a decent local service to customers!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

When I moved home I decided to stick with the same energy supplier, one of the big six, to minimise the possibility that something might go wrong. The house already had smart meters and I hoped that this might mean that the company might manage to adjust my direct debits to keep track of my usage.

My bill dated 6 March states:
Your credit balance is £274.55 CR
You don’t need to do anything – we’ll write to you if you’re due a refund. If we’ve
not refunded your credit balance, we’ll carry this over to your next statement.
We regularly review how much you’re paying to make sure it’s the right amount
and will let you know if it needs to change.

This morning I received a letter giving the same information and stating that my direct debit will go down from £119 to £55 per month from 15 April 2017. It seems that despite the smart meter, consumption is reviewed only annually. I’m also told that “We’re expecting your account balance to be £0.00 at your next annual review.”

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

If you are paying a fixed monthly direct debit then your initial payments may well exceed your consumption, which may have been based on the previous occupant’s usage.

Smart meters should enable people to have a “pay as you use” contract with variable monthly payments for the energy you have actually used. However, some like the fixed monthly payments so they build up a credit in the warmer months and don’t then get hit with big increases in winter.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

That’s fair comment Malcolm but I’ve been here for nearly a year and I did arrange a low direct debit to start with on the basis that I would not be in the house much for the first two or three months.

I did ask the company not to let my credit build up, pointing out that there were smart meters to monitor what I had used. I fully acknowledge that some people would prefer to have fixed monthly payments, but I would prefer that the credit balance was in my account.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Our supplier, E.On, prefers to change the monthly direct debit rather than refund a surplus balance. Because the drastically reduced DD payments were clearly intended to clear the surplus rather than fund average consumption over the year this has produced a yo-yo effect in my outgoings which I had hoped to avoid.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

John are you saying E.On takes it upon itself to decide when to vary the means of payment for your use of their energy ? I am not too keen on that as that means an energy company can manipulate your bank withdrawals to suite its own commercial profit advantage . Co-op Energy has supplied me with a CE card to make up any shortfall by taking it to a Post Office or Pay Point and making up the difference therebye leaving me in control of my money not a private company. I have had full experience of SP+BG doing this sort of thing to my disadvantage causing me all sorts of problems , i am now personally a lot happier doing CE,s way no build up in money (credit ) (except for the fixed deduction/month) which I know they use like the banks for their own advantage . This is an issue on the web as it means large companies make £100,000,s from the interest/re-investment , good when you can get it , but YOU ! don’t get it they do .

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

E.On doesn’t vary the means of payment, Duncan; direct debit is part of the tariff structure which attracts a discount. Most of our energy is used for heating, hot water, cooking and washing [laundry and dishes] and the house is very well insulated so the heating load is the most variable. If there is a mild winter or we are away a lot and leave the heating on a lower setting then a surplus can accrue even in the winter, and sometimes this has been in the region of £200-300. Part of the deal is that this is reviewed annually with a view to breaking even, so part way through the year E.On judges the likely out-turn expenditure based on accumulated consumption, other trends, and any price movements. At this mid-point assessment, if there is a large credit balance, they seek to neutralise it by reducing the direct debit payment for the balance of the payment year. This can give rise to some fairly large fluctuations because when the next payment period starts the DD is raised again to collect one twelfth each month of the forecast annual total charge with any divergence again dealt with at the mid-point assessment. In general I am not dissatisfied with this process as I realise that our consumption does not follow a regular pattern and I prefer to be in credit at all times rather than otherwise; I just wish the ups and downs could be smoothed out a bit by looking a bit further ahead into the following year’s estimated charges but I manage the situation myself, along with the other utilities, through my personal banking. At least it ensures that E.On does not retain excessive credit balances and overall I am in control as i can always increase the monthly DD’s if it would be beneficial. I trust E.On to manage any customer surpluses through its corporate treasury operations to benefit customers as well as shareholders in an equitable way. I find the best way to keep energy costs down is to be prudent and frugal with consumption.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Thanks for that John -well put I don’t have the same mid-term evaluation but I have a steady flow of energy use only fluctuating from early summer to late autumn when I shut down the room heating ( I only have a small cottage ) but due to the very thick walls more than a foot thick sandstone blocks it doesn’t take much to heat and can get very warm in summer.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It is e.on that I am with and on the two occasions when they have increased my direct debit they have informed me, unlike Scottish Power who never even sent an email before substantially increasing my direct debit.

I certainly would not wish to have a negative credit balance because that would be unfair, but if e.on has direct access to my energy usage through smart meters then surely they could use this information and adjust the direct debit accordingly.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

In our case E.On has continuous access to the electricity consumption via the smart meter [which I never look at] and I send monthly gas meter readings. Our electricity consumption is relatively constant and declining as we have installed LED’s in most lights and are more economical with the washing machine and dishwasher. Heating [by gas boiler] is the major variable. I cannot say to what extent E.On factor current consumption into the payment calculations but I think the tendency is to over-estimate as the year progresses and then strike a neutral balance at the year-end. I don’t know if the year-end is the same for all customers or based on when the first contract started.

I think the only perfect way to get consumption and charges in line is to pay as you go on a monthly basis but I am not sure whether, at present, any of the suppliers offer that. It could be a realistic possibility when smart meters are the majority recording system. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long time before all gas supply is on smart meters because of the location of the existing metering points and the lack of an electricity supply in proximity. Or does the smart electricity meter communicate wirelessly with the smart gas meter in some way that requires no power supply at the gas meter? I think the technology is there for that if they are physically close enough.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

A gas smart meter contains a battery that should last for years and the supplier will receive a warning in good time of the need for replacement.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thanks, Wavechange. It’s good to know that it doesn’t depend on the householder to keep an eye on it and change the battery.

Our gas meter is in a box at ground level adjacent to the front door. I suppose the energy company could come along at any time and change the meter for a smart one. I shall have to fit a padlock so the meter reader will have to ring the doorbell.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

My gas smart meter is at ground level and is protected by a Pyracantha security system, which is berry good.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Pyracantha – Firethorn – may not be best close to your meter if you have a gas leak? And your gasly spector might claim for injury when taking a reading.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I cut enough away this afternoon to be able to open the box and shut off the gas, as I did last year. I’m not sure that would be sufficient to allow someone to change the battery.

Profile photo of DerekP
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“I think the only perfect way to get consumption and charges in line is to pay as you go on a monthly basis but I am not sure whether, at present, any of the suppliers offer that.”

A close alternative to that would be Utilita’s smart meter based pre-payment tariff. With that, you can use on-line top-ups on a “just in time” basis.

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Prepayment can certainly help those who are struggling with their bills and Utilita say that they can take on customers in debt. We are due to see an end to prepayment customers being charged extra. One problem is that Utilita is using different hardware from other companies, complicating switching.

Of course if our energy companies were controlled by the regulator to stop them putting their customers on expensive tariffs if they don’t take action there might not be a problem. At present, we have to bow down to commercial practices rather than thinking about the needs of the citizens of this country. 🙁

Profile photo of malcolm r
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We might think that most ordinary people are quite capable of deciding for themselves whether to switch supplier or not, knowing they will save money. The research into switching has shown this to be the case. There should be no need to nanny them into doing something when they can do it for themselves.

What we should be focusing our energies and ideas on is how best to help this small minority who do not have the ability or capability to do this. Ofgem have made progress in this direction.

We should help those who are unable to help themselves.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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My feelng is to keep my existing conventional meters and send in monthly meter readings until there is some genuine advantage to me in having a smart meter. For example the option to use 1 hour tariffs or to have selective load shedding in case of a capacity problem – this would help those dependent, medically say, upon an uninterrupted mains supply .

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It’s wise for anyone dependent on electrical equipment to have a backup supply for equipment and emergency lighting. Oxygen concentrators and air pumps use little power.

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Oxygen concentrators don’t have back-up batteries in my experience, so cylinders are necessary. Bipap machines are essential to many and have back-up batteries that will last 2 hours. So we need to think about ensuring such appliances are not prevented from working by loss of supply. Smart meters are one way of supplying electricity to essential users when choices have to be made.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Any mains-operated equipment can be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which consists of an automatically charged battery linked to an inverter to produce mains power. I have a small one to power my desktop computer to prevent possible damage if the mains fails. I knew a chap who made his own setup powered by a large battery.

If smart meters were used to turn off mains power for any reason other than a national emergency there could be riots in the streets. The possibility of remote switching off of power is one of the concerns about smart meters.

The number of people with medical needs is relatively small and UPS is a perfectly adequate solution.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I must say I think a UPS is quite useful. I had one installed in our hall cupboard where the consumer unit is situated to provide light if it is necessary to reset a breaker on the lighting circuit or if there is a general power failure. The light can also be switched on at any time to illuminate the dark cupboard.

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We must think about the vulnerable, not just ourselves. Most people will not have UPS’s. There will not be “riots in the streets”; if there is a major fault on the system but the supplies to a small minority of customers at risk can be maintained by smart meters the vast majority will see that as a worthwhile application of technology. Many more people than you think will have mains medical equipment and would much prefer to have supply maintained than, for example, to have to retrieve large, heavy oxygen cylinders from storage – if it happens while they are awake of course.

Perhaps w you would give a reference to the claim about “remote switching concerns” from people who have been properly informed?

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“The number of people with medical needs is relatively small”. Really? As just one example their are 1.2 million people with COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder – many of whom require home oxygen treatment, most effectively supplied by a mains-powered electrical oxygen concentrator. Many of these may also requires breathing help from a Bipap – again electrically powered – to both relieve their breathing muscles and to remove excess CO2.

That doesn’t seem like a “relatively small” number to me. Let alone all those with other medical conditions.

Perhaps we should be thinking about more positive ways to help these people and less about the inconvenience we might have to put put up with for a few hours at most? If there is a way smart meters can help, we should be supporting it, in my view, not suggesting these people have to go out to buy and install UPSs to protect their health

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Where we live power cuts are not – sadly – uncommon. We have two UIPS systems to cope with this, but on one occasion we were off for four days.

Recently, however, spikes have become a more worrying problem; in fact, it was the spikes that wrecked a couple of HDs and prompted me to get a second UIPS. This is, of course, down to the distributors and not the Power company itself, which is OVO, and tends to be pretty good.

What’s important is to log spikes and cuts, so you have a record when asking the distributor for compensation. They paid for new HDs for me because I’d done that.

(I’m sure I’ve posted about this before, but it doesn’t seem to be in this topic )

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I do think about the vulnerable, Malcolm. They have been mentioned in many of my posts, particularly those relating to energy prices. A substantial proportion of the population have some sort of disability and we cater for their needs. What I have suggested is not complicated.

What I said was: “The possibility of remote switching off of power is one of the concerns about smart meters”, and this is well documented.

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Many people who rely on medical devices will be disabled, lacking in financial means, and not able to afford a UPS for each device. It is most unlikely any would be able to make one for themselves, like your chap. Nor should we have to burden the NHS with yet more equipment to purchase and service when it should be unnecessary. Those who have “concerns about remote switching” would, I expect, if told that a benefit would be in protecting vulnerable people with severe medical problems, be in favour.

We must think more about the vulnerable referred to your “rioters in the streets”, a claim I doubt is justified. A worthy cause needs our support.

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Malcolm – We do already support people with a wide range of disabilities. Walking frames, wheelchairs and Motability cars, bathing aids, etc, etc. In my view it is better to make sure that those with disabilities – which may change – are catered for rather than imposing control of the mains supply for everyone else.

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If there is a major, but not complete, power shortage it makes sense to allocate power to those who are essential users, when the rest of us can hang on with a little inconvenience until power is restored. If you are looking after someone who is dependent upon an electrical supply for their medical condition, 24 hours a day, I think you would appreciate a pragmatic solution rather than issuing all such people with yet more expensive equipment that would rarely be used, at great and unnecessary expense to the rest of us. For some, hospitals must issue duplicate equipment “just in case” the batteries do not last as long a s a power failure. When a simple no-cost alternative will exist, that can stop.

Profile photo of Ian
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I’m curious: how would smart meters maintain supplies when the poles are blown down?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Those relying on oxygen concentrators and other breathing aids will rarely find that their “needs may change”. Walking frames and the other examples do not rely upon your energy supplier, to the best of my knowledge, and have no relevance to this particular point.

These disabled people have enough to put up with compared the the rest of the population, and do not need unhelpful obstacles put in the way of their care just for our own convenience. I can live without the tv, cooker and such like for an hour or two if it helps someone who is dependent upon electricity deal with their disability. Perhaps those who feel they can’t should be the ones to invest in standby power supplies.

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They cannot, of course. What they can guard against is excessive demand on an overloaded system which might benefit from load shedding. When poles are blown down, or a substation or line transformer fails, power can be rerouted but full demand, I presume, might not be catered for.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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By coincidence I have just received an email from UK Power Networks about their priority service to those needing support during a power cut, for example:
• Customers who rely on medical equipment
• Customers who are chronically ill
• Customers with a disability
• Customers who have dementia
• Customers who are blind or partially sighted
I hope we support this approach as well and do not seek to prevent those in need being given special treatment, even if it inconveniences the rest of us.

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Ian is right and living in a rural area has experience with power failures. Anyone dependent on mains power should already have contingency measures in place. Why put the rest of the public at danger (e.g. falling down unlit stairs) when there it is possible to look after the needs of the disabled.

We are off-topic and I suggest moving this discussion to The Lobby.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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So UPSs are not off topic, but protecting a power supply to the vulnerable is? If moderators want to move a topic then that is up to them, but it is not a good way for a Convo commenter to try to shut down a discussion. The topic in this Convo is about energy, and maintaining the supply to vulnerable people seems very relevant, particularly to those in an unfortunate medical situation..

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I made the suggestion of moving to The Lobby because this Conversation invites us to comment on our energy suppliers. You have made suggestions that discussions have been moved too.

I think it would be interesting to have more detailed discussion about helping those with medical problems and the possibility of temporarily interrupting electricity supplies for other customers.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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A dedicated Convo rather than the Lobby would be more appropriate. if we do that. The Lobby is not, in my view, for a serious topic of this nature. In the absence of such a Convo, as with other topics, discussion should continue particularly when the facts are not clear. This, I would suggest, is a matter for Which?

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That may be your view, Malcolm, but the Lobby’s function is, in part, to act as an incubator for the very sort of topic you deem ‘serious’. Anything can be discussed there, and if there’s sufficient interest, a new topic will spring up to accommodate the need.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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That is my view Ian, as you say, and a conversation is a place to express my view, and for others to express theirs. I deem looking after the interests of those dependent upon electricity as “serious”. The Lobby is largely populated by relatively trivial and fun items – nothing wrong with that but I don’t see it as appropriate to lose a serious Convo topic in it.

If you look back, this Convo drifted from suppliers into meters, and a comment was made about selective switching leading to riots. It deserved a response when so many people are medically dependent on a supply being maintained.

However, thanks for your view..

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Well, if conversations drift – as they’re bound to – and someone wants to continue a ‘serious’ debate elsewhere, the Lobby would seem to be ideally suited. After all, where else can they go? The Lobby’s tone might be light hearted but that doesn’t mean it can’t be both serious and irreverent. And I suspect Wave’s aside was just that; a metaphorical allusion, although it has to be said that less important issues than blackouts have provoked riots in the past.

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I doubt that helping disabled and vulnerable people would provoke a riot in a civilised society. I think people are free to choose where they continue a conversation until the moderators advise.

This particular part of the energy debate might be of interest to those with worries about their energy supply to essential equipment when a power shortage occurs, and know it is worth contacting UK Power Networks who can offer guidance, including priority updates on the restoration of their supply..

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What I said was: “If smart meters were used to turn off mains power for any reason other than a national emergency there could be riots in the streets. The possibility of remote switching off of power is one of the concerns about smart meters.” It is a figure of speech intended to convey that there would be considerable opposition. Unfortunately you have twisted what I said.

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wavechange, I have repeated what you said. If you meant otherwise, please say.

I don’t think we should go round this argument again, so I will conclude by giving my view. If we have a temporary power shortage then, if a means exists to supply vulnerable people preferentially, particularly those who rely on essential medical devices, then I think this would receive popular support. If smart meters could be used in such a situation then it would be a worthwhile use for them. Emergencies are more than just “national”; for someone whose health and life are at risk the term “emergency” would apply to them.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m happy to discuss this in a relevant Conversation. I have knowledge of respiratory conditions requiring medical equipment and having lived off-grid for between one and two years of my adult life I can contribute to discussion of coping without power.

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I’m more than a bit disturbed to note the spin that’s being put on things in this topic. I’ve gone through the entire exchange and have not found one single instance where anyone said or implied “that helping disabled and vulnerable people would provoke a riot in a civilised society”. For me, that goes beyond having a fetish where money is concerned; that’s tantamount to libel.

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Now, when you say This particular part of the energy debate might be of interest to those with worries about their energy supply to essential equipment when a power shortage occurs, and know it is worth contacting UK Power Networks who can offer guidance, including priority updates on the restoration of their supply.., Malcolm, how would that help me? I received an email from them, but according to their website and OFGEN they only cover the SE and London.

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/electricity/distribution-networks/network-innovation/low-carbon-networks-fund/second-tier-projects/uk-power-networks

Profile photo of malcolm r
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“If smart meters were used to turn off mains power for any reason other than a national emergency there could be riots in the streets.”. I replied “if there is a major fault on the system but the supplies to a small minority of customers at risk can be maintained by smart meters the vast majority will see that as a worthwhile application of technology”.

One tactic I do not deliberately indulge in is “spin” and certainly not “libel” .I have put forward a reasoned argument why smart meters might have an application to help these vulnerable people. Please do not try to make an argument where none exists. If you do have a problem with something I post, please report it in the normal way.

To avoid misunderstanding, could you explain just what you mean by “For me, that goes beyond having a fetish where money is concerned; that’s tantamount to libel.”

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Perhaps you might contact your local network operator then Ian.

Do you think the NHS should supply all equipment users with portable generators (these presumably require action to start them, assuming the medical equipment user is awake).

May I remind you that this started as a proposition for the possible use of smart meters to help those on electric medical devices in the event of a power shortage.

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Well, you did say when a power shortage occurs, and know it is worth contacting UK Power Networks who can offer guidance, including priority updates on the restoration of their supply., but clearly I can’t. And, if their site is accurate, neither can most in the UK.

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When you say One tactic I do not deliberately indulge in is “spin” and certainly not “libel” how do you describe this:

I doubt that helping disabled and vulnerable people would provoke a riot in a civilised society?

To me, that clearly implies that you’re attributing a statement that was only made by you to someone else. You’ve directly linked cause and effect in a way that no one else has.

Profile photo of Ian
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On to the next points:

Do you think the NHS should supply all equipment users with portable generators (these presumably require action to start them, assuming the medical equipment user is awake).

That’s what they do here. Economies of scale seem to make it work quite well, and it’s clearly a far more reliable system than arbitrary cut-off. In the mountains storms can wreak havoc with supplies, so gennies are essential.

May I remind you that this started as a proposition for the possible use of smart meters to help those on electric medical devices in the event of a power shortage.

Well, that’s not evident to me. It seems to have started more than a year ago with the first post by you complaining that the topic header was imprecise:

Which?, I think your campaign needs to be supported by more information. You need to put in some groundwork. Or work with Ofgem to set down some benchmark figures.

Someone earlier today mentioned helping the vulnerable, but that’s not how ‘this’, in the sense of the topic, started.

Profile photo of John Ward
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The issue raised by Wavechange – and I hope I am interpreting him correctly – is that there are concerns over how, when and on whose authority the electricity suppliers can switch out [or leave switched in] individual consumers’ power supplies via their smart meters. This does raise public interest concerns, and possibly even questions over civil rights. With hindsight we might say that Wavechange was perhaps using hyperbole in referring to the potential for “riots in the streets”; I assumed he was concerned about the absenc