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Scottish Power increase prices, but I’ve got the power to leave

Energy prices sign

Don’t all laugh at once, but I’m with Scottish Power, the energy company that’s just announced price rises of 19% (gas) and 10% (electricity). And if you think that’s bad, just wait until your provider follows in their footsteps.

I’ve got a confession to make. I’m a serial energy switcher. Ever since I had control over my own bills I’ve hopped from company to company without so much as a smidgeon of loyalty.

When it comes to other products and services I’ll happily pay a bit more for a brand I love, or a service that I think is decent (take a bow, Virgin Media), but with energy companies there’s nothing to make me stay when the price goes skywards.

With energy companies I have never noticed any difference in service – only in price. Poor customer service, confusing bills and a bewildering array of tariffs – should I go for the ‘Fixed Eco Net Doubleplusgood’ tariff, or the ‘Mega-Discount 14 Saver’ tariff?

That’s why the second I saw the announcement that Scottish Power had hiked prices again, I headed straight to Which? Switch. Loyalty doesn’t help me save cash, and when it comes to energy I’m all about the money.

Paying the price of staying put

I know the old argument – switching takes ages. It’s time-consuming, it’s a hassle, and you can’t even guarantee that your new price will be a bargain beyond the first couple of months.

Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never found it that difficult to switch. Yes, I’ve had problems, the most notable being when npower and Scottish Power found it impossible to talk to each other, and insisted on both charging me for the same batch of electricity. But they got it sorted out after a couple of emails, and it was worth it to get onto a cheaper deal.

And it will be worth it again if I can switch to a cheaper deal. With price increases of almost 20%, the average household’s energy bills could rise by £175 per year. I think that’s worth a few phone calls and a bit of hassle.

Will you be swayed to switch?

I understand people who don’t want to worry about the hassle, but I think we often assume that switching is like a perilous mountain that will take eons to scale.

First you find a cheaper deal, then you put in all your details, then you switch. After that you wait months and months for your energy company to sort things out, while you take an almost infinite number of meter readings and phone them every five minutes to make sure they haven’t accidentally cut you off or hurled your details into a fiery pit.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s annoying, but not that annoying, and it’s definitely worth it to save nearly £200 and feel smug when you read headlines like: ‘£220 shock on your bill’ or: ‘Families stunned as power bills soar to £1,391’.

So what about you? Energy bills are one of the big financial concerns for UK consumers. Is there anything that could make you stay with your energy company, besides the price? And are these latest hikes going to sway you into switching?

Comments

I would like to correct some mis-information in Nikki’s article;
There are indeed some “brands” which customers can feel loyalty to. These are all smaller companies such as Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Energy. As a customer of Ecotricity I know that I will not be ripped off, will not want to change supplier, will have my phonecalls answered straight away by someone in the Stroud office (no call centres abroad), and above all can use electricity in the knowledge that most of it is definitely from a low carbon source (the big companies may make this claim but their record is dubious). Ecotricity (and the others mentioned as far as I know) plough ALL of their profits back into renewable technologies. No creaming off to shareholders or massive bonuses to directors. Using small ethical companies is definitely the way the way forward for the ethical consumer.

Robin says:
12 June 2011

I have taken a lot of trouble over the years to find the best deal. At the moment I use SP’s “Pay in Advance – Domestic”. This saves me 5% on top of the best monthly direct debit rate that I have managed to find. Nevertheless I continue to visit various websites to compare energy prices. After I have completed all the tedious questions – Surprise, Surprise, all of them come up with a response that they can save me £200 here and £300 here by changing to companies that I KNOW are not competitive as the deal I currently have. So what is the racket that the energy comparison websites operate! I have come to the conclusion that they operate a flawed software system. Even if you submit your correct tarrif rate, the comparison websites always calculate using the most expensive rate that your current company offers. (honest software error Guv! a complete accident, not deliberate. Cross my heart) Naturally using this “system” there are plenty of companies that are cheaper. The software then tells you how much money you will save by changing to the new company. The comparison websites NEVER tell you the rate that you will be charged for this electricity or gas so that you can actually compare apples with apples. The punter is so excited at saving all this money that they rush to change to a new energy supplier and the website earns an easy £60 from the company for recruiting a new customer. The websites do not print out a report that gives the facts. Remember you have just spent 10 minutes supplying all the facts needed for a comprehensive report. They should be able to print out a report that says You are paying for x amount of energy and your current rates are y. This adds up to an annual total of z. (i.e. you should check for yourself that the baseline is accurate). The report should then say, if you change to this company their rates are y1 and for the same amount of energy your total bill will be z1. – A saving of z – z1. This report could be generated so easily. There has to be a reason they don’t do it. Is it because the system is dishonest?

Even the Which energy comparison website operates this “system”.

Nikki I would love you to tell me that there is a comparison website that does print a good report, because if there is, I have not found it.

Hi Robin.

Sorry to hear you’ve had bas experience with switching sites! Which? Switch works by using the rates of your current tariff and calculating an annual spend based on what you tell us about your usage. We will always use the rates for the tariff you tell us you are on so that the quoted savings are as accurate as possible. We also allow you to see a comparison page for every tariff which sets out the rates of your current tariff versus another one on the market and shows how the annual saving has been calculated- to find this use the ‘Compare to current’ link against tariffs on the results table. We take providing accurate and reliable information very seriously and our calculation system is accredited by the Consumer Focus Confidence Code.

Having done the maths (and seeing comments on other forums) I’m wondering who’s getting the 10% & 19% rises? According to my maths, my electricity increase 53% for the first rate, and 38% for the second. For gas it’s 56% for the first rate and 69% for the rest. And this is a rate guaranteed to be 2% lower than their standard DD prices. As I mentioned above we’re not exactly high users, but a year at these new prices will push up to nearly £600 a year (we have a 1-bed, are out most of the time and wear lots of jumpers and blankets in the winter). I’ve estimated the difference per day as jumping from £1.05 to £1.60.

Having compared to the prices Co-op are quoting, if they don’t up their prices they will actually be cheaper than Scottish Power.

Hmm… so looks like I can’t do maths of an evening. Anyway, still works out as there are other tariffs cheaper than SP so maybe will switch. Potentially would save more than the cancellation fees by moving too, so might be worth it. Will have a look at cash back options.

gazzer says:
14 June 2011

I received a letter this morning (14th June) from my supplier, nPower, dated “May 2011”, which started “as you know the introductory period for your online tariff came to an end on 31st March 2011.” And then goes on to tell me that they have kindly transferred me to their standard tariff from that date. I realise that I have some responsibility to remember when a special offer ends, but the comapnies don’t make it easy:
– there is nothing on their bill to state when a particular offer will end
– even worse, on my latest nPower bill (15th March) they predict energy costs for the next 12 months based on the special tariff that is about to end – and which is no longer available
– the only way to know when a special rate is about to run out is to search the e-mails for the past 12 months to find out the date the new tariff started

The solution is for suppliers to put the date of expiry of any special offer on the bill – given that my bill is 8 pages long already that should not be a big deal!

Does the recent change which requires energy companies to advise you a month in advance of a change in price also apply to price changes when special offers expire? I hope so, but somehow I doubt it…

I could make the same point about banks and building societies who offer 12-month ‘bonus’ rates, but then make it almost impossible to find out when the current rate is about to expire. I’ve been caught out recently on this as well.

I count myself as reasonably savvy and on the ball, but keeping track of the dates when spec

chrishoyland says:
15 June 2011

Hi
I’ve just rec’d my new Scottish Power tariffs. Interestingly they have put a 28% increase on the first 225KW of electricity used but only 2 and 3% respectively on the Day and night tariffs, so the whole thing is loaded to give them the largest benefit possible. My gas has risen by 21.5% average.
I will be changing but see little point until others have announced their increases.

johnrath says:
22 June 2011

Interesting. I have just posted about my new Scottish Power rates for electricity (See below) My first units have gone up by about the same percentage but Extra Daytime and Nigghtime have gone up by over 40%!!

Averil says:
16 June 2011

I used a cash back site but am having considerable difficutly getting my cash back payment. I wonder what rights I have.

I also suffered from my previous supplied applying the higher tariff (this one that is supposed to be for the first so many units used in a quarter and is some 4 times higher than the second tariff) repeatedly several times in the middle of a quarter on the grounds that I had moved to a new tariff, and had supplied a couple of meter readings (at their request). This means that many more units were charged at the higher tariff in the middle of the quarter and not just at the beginning of the quarter. There should be a requirement that all units are charged at the same rate, to stop companies applying the higher tariff as often as they like.

What surprised me when we got our notification was that it wasn’t the price of the electricity that was going up per se, it was the price of the electricity standing charge.
The email said as follows…

Electricity
Daily Service Charge 13.76p from 25.54p – an extra £43 per year
All/Day Units kWh 10.590p 10.590p – no change.

Gas
Daily Service Charge from 24.50p to 31.02p
All/Day Units kWh 3.000p 3.596p – no change

So the electricity charge goes up by £43 and the gas charge by nearly £24 and we don’t even have the option to reduce the impact by turning of the telly/computer/oven/heating a bit more often.

I can understand putting up the price of the fuel if the price of fuel goes up – but the standing charge is unavoidable – it does not seem fair.

Still, according to Which?switch I can save £123 per year just by changing to the OES 14 option, nearly as much as I can by changing supplier – so I think we’ll try that first…

johnrath says:
22 June 2011

Although I read the announcement that Scottish Power’s electricity charges were going up by around 10% on August 1st, in an email I received last weekend the actual increases they give for the different unit rates are as follows:
Daytime – 1st 225 – 26%
Next units – 45%!!
Nighttime – 57%!!!!!

When I pointed this out to them, I seemed to get some sort of standard reply about prices going up and perhaps I’d like to switch to a fixed tariff. No word about how these increases of over 40% were justified.

Tim says:
10 July 2011

I have changed supplier a number of times re poor service (incorrect meter readings – how can they mess this up?) and I am currently with Scottish Power. I started to look into changing and thought I was doing something wrong because on my workings out my tariff has changed by 23%,36%,38+% and I am on Econ 7 so 38% is onbviously the most relevant. How can 10% be claimed?
Looks like I have to switch to N Power fix 6 but I was wondering if fixing until end of 2014 with SP was worth it.

johnrath says:
10 July 2011

Replying to my own email (?), I had sent my Scottish Power query – on how a 10 per cent increase becomes 40% in real life! – to The Independent and this seems to be sort-of answered in yesterday’s edition of its “Questions of Cash” column. See link below:

http://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/questions-of-cash-customers-should-check-power-tariffs-2309658.html

It seems that I was, unknown to myself, previously basking in various, substantial discounts…

I’m with Scottish Power. Ok they will increase gas by 13% and electric 10% which is influenced by world prices but the daily charge of the combined gas & electric is going up by 137.62%. surly it should only go up by RPI. Where is there a Watch Dog when you want one?

For some time now I’ve realised that if you are a low user of energy you don’t want to be on a tariff where you pay a standing daily charge. If you used no gas or electricity or gas throughout the year you would still pay the daily charge.
So for low energy users you need a no standing charge tariff. So what have companies like Scottish Power, who have no standing charge, done? They’ve piled the increase onto the Tier 1 part of the bill, which is almost like applying it to a standing charge.
What on Earth is going on? All those people who have tried to save energy by fitting loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, double glazing, draught excluders, etc. etc. have all been beaten mercilessly by applying the bulk of the price increase to either the standing charge or Tier 1. What was the point in encouraging people to reduce energy consumption and then apply the largest price increases to the lowest users?
I suppose it always was difficult to understand why it was the companies who sell us gas and electricity who were so concerned about supplying us insulation grants to help reduce the products they sell?
Which? Magazine/Consumer Association needs to get something done about this. The majority of the energy charges need to be applied to the higher end users, not those who are trying to do their bit for the environment.

I have to agree with Colin Grave. I have just recently gone back to Scottish Power and I am a very low user. The standing charges have doubled for electricity and the gas standing charge is substantially up too. It’s similar to the last company I left now. It looks like they have spread the burden evenly over all their consumers and are now charging ridiculous amounts to customers who are using next to nothing. I feel the standing charges are far too high with all companies now and that the government department that regulates these energy companies needs to act to encourage low use. Of course the horse has already bolted. If you use both gas and electricity, they are all more or less guaranteeing themselves around £200 year now in standing charges or indirect payments for the same, before you pay a penny towards your actual consumption?
I believe there should be a case for an overall reduction and a capping of standing charges for power. It should be a basic right like water and although I do not want something for nothing I do believe the energy companies should be forced to reduce this and concentrate their charges on energy prices. Given that the cost of supplying the service is fairly estimated by an ombudsman then further increases to these costs should be related to inflation only.

…….Well thanks NPower, for completely upsetting my wife on Valentines Night, how did you manage to dupe us into leaving EON with your comparison site slight of hand into believing that the monthly projected amount on a smaller usage has ended up doubling the gas and electricity bill for the last two quarters.
You are selling us the idea that you can provide us with a level yearly amount that’s payable monthly and then suddenly when you inquire about how the bill looks for the winter period you get the awful truth you have skillfully managed to palm twice as much from our account as any other energy provider with the excuse when tackled that it will take 56 days to run through the complaints procedure and by that time you have taken the variance not once but twice and so another complaints procedure begins and so on and so forth with us on the financial back foot not you .
If you think for one minute that your well versed customer service staff can blind us to the reality of how you purchase and supply a natural resource that in some parts of the Urals is so plentiful that it is seeping out of the Steppes quicker than you can raise the price to consumer then you are misguided.
It is time for an overhaul and if we all endured the cold in the spring for a month you would have to lower your prices or default on your contract to order.
Do not underestimate us or our resolve for a warm home, warm parents, warm children and a fair shake, you are dealing with the same people that sat out 10 months of constant bombing and never gave an inch, a month in the cold is nothing to us or those from the foothills of the Himalayas and below that now join us in this fight for fair prices.
You are on alert.

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7 November 2012

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Jonathan says:
18 March 2013

What is the best plan at the current moment with scottish power?

3 Bed house average bills of £130

GrahamP54 says:
9 April 2015

Please be aware when your old supplier calls with a fantastic rate,
It is a trick. The price won’t last the year and you will probably be out of pocket.

Our Scottish Power fixed price deal came to an end, so I went on Switch with Which and went for First Utility. Scottish Power, quite reasonably, gave me a call to try and persuade me not to leave.
What is not reasonable is the trick they use to keep me on board. They told me that they had just launched a new deal that would reduce my monthly direct debit to £65. First Utility worked out as £92, quite a saving, but warning lights were flashing in my head. If it is too good to be true it is probably a trick, and it was. Further digging revealed that £65/month would have been just OK for the approaching summer but come winter it would have had to increase massively or allow the account to go deeply red. The true figure for Scottish Power should have been £97/month over 12 months as best I can make out, close, but still more than F.U.
I discovered that my in-laws got caught out by this trick last year, had cheap months during the summer then a big price hike when winter came.
Needless to say, I am sticking with F.U. for the next year, then we will see.