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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
Member

I am with them but capped until next year thankfully and they were very cheap when I signed up – Of course I will have to move or renegotiate once the term is up. However, what really grates is the complete lack of price drops when wholesale prices go down – Of course SP aren’t the only guilty ones here – Maybe you guys can check but have there been any price reductions from the main players in the last 5 years? If not then something is up and OFWAT or whoever regulates the industry needs to kick some ****.

Member

Scottish Power too! Locked in until end of October. However we have a 1-bed flat and I’m so tight I make my husband turn almost everything off at the wall, so we’ve built up loads of credit so hopefully we won’t owe anything when we switch in November. Disappointly Co-op was “only £240 more” than our current deal. I could cope with about £50 extra a year to change to them, but £240 is more than we’ve spent since switching in July (so been with them since Sep/Oct)!

Member

I’m currently with Scottish Power too – though I’m one of the ‘lucky’ 700K customers on a fixed online tariff who won’t be affected by this rise. I’ve actually found SP to be pretty good in terms of customer service, but come next year when the tariff ends, I’ll be off if I can find a better deal elsewhere.

I’m with you on the serial switching front Nikki. I’ve switched suppliers quite a few times now, and haven’t had any major problems (thus far, anyway). Granted, it can be a bit of a hassle – but rather that than be rewarded for your loyalty by ending up on a less competitive deal.

Member
Davy says:
8 June 2011

I am puzzled by the Nikki Whiteman’s gushing encouragment to keep switching. Most suppliers now apply cancellation charges of about £50 which often makes it uneconomical to switch before the end of the contract.

Member

Hi Davy – that’s a good point, and of course there will be some people for whom it doesn’t make sense to switch at the moment. Fixing into a contract can be a good way to sidestep price rises, like Kelly above who won’t be affected by the rises while she’s fixed and may get charged a hefty fee for leaving early. So, of course, if it doesn’t make economical sense to switch then you shouldn’t.

The scenario I was trying to address in the conversation above was mainly for all those who, like me, will be affected by the price hikes straight away. Even if I were charged £50 to leave Scottish Power (which I don’t think I will be as I’m not on a fixed tariff) it will still be worth moving if I can save £175!

Member

I’ve signed up early with EDF to continue with them, then they just put a daily charge on. The truth is non of them are honest or up front. I got an £84 refund about 2 years after leaving the previous supplier as I didnt understand the pricing structure and was obviously not alone. Any company that starts off with a level priceing structure ends up changing it, also the old method of increasing the standing order to an excessive amount is the final straw they always do before you move. It is not surprising that cannabis growers seem to be able to bypass the meter and get free electricity with impunity, there must be a lot doing the same without growing a cash crop – this probably correlates with having no car insurance. I am wondering if I have solar power it is worth paying extra to be able to disconnect from the network completely.

Member

I had a similar thing with NPower before I moved – as soon as winter was over they changed they upped the daily gas service charge by 75% for the summer – criminal

Another good plan when shifting is to go via the cashback websites – say quidco or topcashback – If you time it well you can get 150 quid back on the first year – which is a pretty significant % of the yearly cost – do that each year and the savings add up. For example with my SP contract I got 150 quid on sign up and 150 quid just before the anniversary

Member

Though I’ve heard on the grapevine that SP are no longer giving cashback through Quidco