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Help us tackle terrible energy tariffs

The power's now in your hands

Are you confused by all the energy tariffs out there? Have you teared your hair out trying to switch energy supplier? Well, you’re not the only one! Something needs to change and we need you to support our campaign.

Twelve years ago nobody cared about which energy tariff they were on, because there was only one choice. It was British Gas for gas and your local electricity board for electricity – or a cold and dark home.

With liberalisation came choice – and the newly-privatised energy companies certainly didn’t hold back. A barrage of tariffs was unleashed onto unsuspecting consumers.

According to research we’ve published today, an average home in the East Midlands now has a bewildering 89 different tariffs to choose from. And that’s just the monthly direct debit ones.

Even Ofgem – not widely known to stand up for the interests of consumers in the past – might be with us in the ‘too much choice’ camp. The regulator’s research shows seven in ten people find the number of tariffs confusing, with just over half saying it’s too hard to work out whether they’d make a saving if they switched supplier.

We need information

Choice only works when consumers are equipped with the information they need to make the right one. The suppliers themselves can’t be relied upon to provide this information.

For instance, we’ve found that none of them actively inform (other than on their websites) their current customers about the availability of alternative tariffs that will potentially save them money. That’s some reward for loyalty.

And when they’re bringing out new tariffs all the time – npower’s introduced 19 versions of its cheapest ‘Sign Online’ deal since 2005 – this is a big problem.

The new government has already announced its plans to ‘increase household’ control by ensuring that energy bills give information on how to move to the cheapest tariff. This is welcome, but we want it to go much further.

Support our campaign

So, today we’re launching a campaign for minimum standards for energy tariffs – because providing information on the cheapest tariffs simply isn’t enough.

We think suppliers should have to give a minimum of 12 weeks’ advanced notice if a tariff is going to change in price or a special offer is coming to an end. At the moment they can tell us about this 65 days after the change has happened!

The upcoming Energy Bill (which will go through parliament before Christmas) is our opportunity to secure mandatory minimum standards which will lead to less confusing tariffs. There are big savings to be had out there, but if there isn’t change, finding the best deal will continue to be a game of chance.

So, if you’re convinced by our campaign, help us convince the government by emailing your MP. Join in the Conversation here by telling us your experiences of trying to find the best energy deal for your home.

Comments
Member

Advance notice yes. I dont I know how long it takes suppliers to bring the new tariff price to market from the time the gas etc is purchased but it must be a few months so existing customers should be told before the new price comes into effect. Telecoms co’s do and they are no different

Number of tariffs is confusing but if you consider how many different types and combinations of deals there are out there – 12/24 month contract, fixed, standing charge no standing charge etc etc – its hardly surprising that every time the gas etc prices change on the open market that a new tariff appears.

I would also like to see minimum service standards introduced. I have raised this issue on another thread but I am still awaiting my first electricty bill from my new supplier nearly 12 months after I switched because their computer cant cope with calculating day/night rate meters. They should not have been allowed to offer a service to customers without this – nor for that matter should Switch with Which or any other comparison site have been permitted to list them.

Also it is worth remembering that most comparison sites operate on an internet basis so if you dont have the internet how can you compare prices. If any of the comparison sites offer a phone service they dont promote it well

Member

It has become as confusing as mobile phone tariffs and I am afraid I believe its deliberate, the more unsure the customer is, the less likely they are to find the cheapest – usually opting for a more profitable contract for the supplier.

Member

‘The Great Energy Tariff Lottery.’ The Government of the day privatised the industry which now acts as a monopolistic cartel. They set up the Quango to regulate it but Ofgem appear woefully incapable of doing anything to help the consumer, indeed they seem to be on the side of the industry. Government should scrap the quango and introduce legislation to force the suppliers to simplyfy tariffs and be open and above board. Perhaps this is a campaign that ‘Which’ should embark upon.

Member
Doug Knox says:
27 September 2010

Predatory traders, remote from their customers, fail to publish proper simple price lists. Price comparison sites may be misnamed, if they also do not publish prices, but merely make claims for percentage differences.
Price changes are contracted in, and yet customer opt out choice of supplier is trapped in. The ability to move suppliers, is tricked into a short time window, rejected if you move too early, and rejected if you move too late, and their penalty for you being “late”, can be another steep price rise.
The effective industry watch dog, was closed down, while the present watch dog will not get involved.
Perhaps it is my fault, but should I really need a Phd in marketing and legal small print to avoid paying double price for the simplest commodities in the market.

Member

Thanks everyone for your really useful comments. We have created a standard letter for people to send to their MPs so if you haven’t already – it would be great if you could help us by writing to them. The link is: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/energy-and-environment/the-great-energy-tariff-lottery/take-action-on-tariffs/

Member

Has any M P sent a reply to any of the e mails sent as a result of your campaign to simplify energy bills and tariffs?
If any reply has been recieved it would be interesting to know who and what they said.

Member

Hi, b.martin – I got a very prompt response from my MP! Lyn Brown (Labour, Newham). She said that she appreciated my concerns on tariffs, and believes that energy tariffs should not contain any hidden costs that are misleading to the consumer.

She also added that she’d written to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to raise the issue with him.

Hope this encourages you! I think it’s always worth writing to your MP on issues you really care about. All good MPs will listen when enough people raise something, or when the issue is a crucial one, and it gives you an extra chance to make your voice heard.

Would love to hear other people’s experiences and whether they’ve heard back!