/ Home & Energy

The standing charge lottery on your energy bills

Which? energy campaign logo

Rising energy prices are consistently one of our biggest worries, but many don’t switch because the market’s too complicated. And our latest research shows a huge variation in standing charges on our energy bills.

I like to think of myself as a savvy customer who gets a good deal on most things I buy. And it’s no different with energy bills. The only problem is that it’s pretty tricky to work out whether I’m paying more than I should for my gas and electricity.

When I buy a new book or DVD I can compare prices across different shops. And when I fill up my car with petrol I can avoid the really expensive garage in town. But, having just moved house, I now need to decide on an energy supplier

Confusing energy prices

So all I need to do is look at how much suppliers charge for their gas and electricity and pick the cheapest one; right? Wrong. Most energy firms split their prices into a confusing array of different rates and standing charges; the latter being a fixed amount applied to your bill daily or annually.

So to even get a rough guess-timate of which tariff will be the cheapest for me, I need to know how much energy I use. Now, this might be just about possible for people whose energy consumption is pretty consistent. But I’ve just moved to a completely different type of house and have no idea how much gas and electricity I’m likely to use this year.

It would be like pulling up to a petrol station and the prices at the pump changing depending on how fast you drive or how many miles you cover.

Huge variation in standing charges

Our latest investigation has revealed the huge variation in standing charges for just one customer. We looked at the range of gas, electricity and dual fuel deals on offer for a specific customer in one region of the country – we found 109 different tariffs including some 75 different standing charges.

And if you think that’s mind-blowing, then factor in all the different regional variations, types of meter, payment methods and so on and you’ll find thousands and thousands of different prices across the country.

Most energy firms say that the standing charge covers fixed costs, such as bills, meters and distribution. But why would these so-called ‘fixed costs’ range from zero up to £402 a year on individual gas and electricity deals combined?

It also seems strange that standing charges can vary widely even within the same firm – leading me to question whether standing charges really relate to ‘fixed costs’ at all.

A low standing charge doesn’t mean a low bill

You can’t even assume that a high standing charge means the highest bill. As our illustration shows, a customer using a lot of gas can be better off with a higher standing charge:

Energy standing charges comparedThis bewildering array of charges is yet another example of how the energy market’s too confusing for us to find the best deal. That’s why Which? has been calling for simple tariffs, without standing charges, displayed in the style of petrol forecourt prices, so that we can all easily spot the cheapest deal.

Ofgem’s current reforms to simplify the energy market don’t go far enough, as companies will still be allowed to include a standing charge and a unit price. If the government fails to take more radical action, such as by introducing a single unit price, we won’t feel confident that we’re paying a fair price for our energy.

Do you find gas and electricity standing charges confusing?

Comments
Guest
richard says:
15 September 2013

I pay £23 a month for Electricity – for a nine roomed house – Used to be far higher – I’m happy – but due to my own efforts

Guest
Granville and Diane says:
17 September 2013

We have electricity and oil CH and coal/wood fireNo gas as we are in the countryside
How do you use so little energy: we were in Kenya and use £2.50 of water pcm and £40 electric?

Guest
J Mathews says:
29 November 2013

Lucky Richard – electricity only £23 for a 9-roomed house. I have to pay £21 for a 5-6 room house, and as a single householder. How does he manage that?
And what about the Standing Charge on each fuel: there is no discount for the single householder which is clearly unfair and, what’s more, isn’t it discrimination?

Guest
PAUL BAKER says:
2 October 2014

I pay £44 pounds a month for electric for a i bedroom flat,
I have not used gas for over 10 years i have just got a bill
For £80 pounds standing charge for the gas meter i am getting it
Sorted with the cab due to my own efforts at 60 years of age
And disabled

[Please don’t write in all CAPs or make your comments personal, as per our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Presumably if you don’t use gas you could have it disconnected to avoid paying any charges, or if you rent you would need to ask your landlord. You certainly don’t want to pay for something you never use.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Many of us are capable of checking prices and finding the best deal for gas and electricity. It is time to consider disabled and disadvantaged people, and those that would find this difficult for any reason, rather than just thinking about ourselves. We need gas and electricity prices that can easily be compared.

We all need energy, so this is a very important campaign.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

I totally agree we need to look after the needs of these people – but I believe that should be through positive assistance for them – not just in energy, but banking, insurance and so on. It is not right to deny the rest the advantages of the tools available to reduce their costs because one group can’t access them – find ways to help that group so all can benefit.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

I don’t think that will happen any time soon, Malcolm. From what I have read and been told (I have no personal experience) our benefits system is in more of a mess than energy supply.

Following privatisation, the supply of energy has gradually become more complex and many do not routinely review their tariff(s) and decide whether to switch. It is far too complicated and that means that a huge number of people are not benefitting, including those whose need is greatest.

I strongly support this Which? campaign. If Which? was to ask the general public, I am fairly confident that the majority would agree.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Wavechange – The switching system is not complex. Which collective switching attracted 250 000 consumers and 40 000 switched. I’ve switched with Which? a number of times very easily.

I don’t know about the general public – neither do Which it seems. So far out of their membership only 1.7% have so far supported the single tariff campaign (although that will surely grow). Ofgem consulted widely to arrive at their recommendations – including consumer groups. Comments are published in their Review.

I would be all in favour of a properly conducted poll to see the majority view, but this needs the arguments for and against single tariffs fairly and fully presented – I am very disappointed that Which? has not done this – it suggests a partial view that its membership may or may not support. I have asked them for evidence to back their claims.

However, we need to help those unable to sort out the best energy deal, not paper over the cracks. Perhaps this should be a Which campaign. If I can input my annual usage and quickly get the best deal, then someone can do that on behalf of the disadvantaged, whether family members or organisations. If we can identify these vulnerable people then we can set up a system to help them, on energy and other purchases like insurance.

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Guest

I accept that the switching system is not complex, (though it was for me when I switched from e.on to Scottish Power earlier this year), but I suspect you are one of the minority that routinely checks and switches. Think about those who genuinely find this hard or may be preoccupied with problems such as illness, having to care for others, marriage problems, more pressing financial problems, and so on. For good reason or bad, many people have remained loyal to their energy provider, sometimes for many years. Do we know how much switching costs the supply companies? That cost must be borne by customers.

I’m all in favour of a poll, and of course the alternatives need to be presented in a balanced way.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

wavechange – I think our exchange has now been exhausted! I’m hoping Which? will respond to these issues. So far it has not.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

I meant to say the same, Malcolm. I’m packing to set off on holiday tomorrow morning, so I might not have much time to continue the discussion in the next week. Anyway, it would be good to have input from others rather than us monopolising the discussion.

My final thought is that I doubt that Which? launches campaigns without some reasonable evidence of need.

Cheers and bye for now.

Guest
Trevor surrey says:
12 October 2013

My friend who is disabled lives on a low income was persuaded by a agent of Utility Warehouse to change from EDF TO Utility Warehouse the result is she has ended up in debt cant afforf heating she puts 20£ on her key meter for electric and only ends up with £10.She is suffering she has a cripling disease Fibra my alga in constant pain .She lives on benifits so she was miss sold a product and cant change back how can this be right god help her if we have a bad winter

Guest
General view says:
18 October 2013

Will swopping give me a nicer gas and/or better quality electricity or will it mean I’m just feeding a different fat cat.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

The debate about tariffs has been widely aired in a number of conversations and still Which? ignores the differing views. It does not present a balanced argument on the pros and cons but pursues a blinkered approach that only its proposal should be adopted. I don’t know whether this represents the views of the majority of its members – it won’t say.

I have an open mind on this issue – I see the attraction of a single tariff to lower energy users, and I see the attraction of paying part of the cost of energy – the fixed expense – plus an energy charge by medium and high enery users. I consider some energy-related costs are independent of consumption, so must either come from users or general taxation. I believe the choice should be there so that ALL energy users can find the cheapest deal that suits their consumption. However, to argue this on the basis that it is easier to compare single numbers than a combination of two costs is an indictment of the ability of us to do simple arithmetic – a silly argument.

As regards your new house, ask the previous owners for their annual consumption – it might help estimate yours. If it is a new house the builder should give you an estimate. As to estimating a bill -Switch with Which is an easy tool to find your likely cheapest supplier and tariff.

Ofgem have published their recommendations – the Retail Market Review August 2013 – which can be read on their website (Ofgem.gov.uk) – after extensive consultation with all parties, included consumer groups. They propose 4 tariffs – unit charge plus standing charge – but the standing charge can be zero. If the wish is to have a single charge, then the option is there.

So Which? – you are failing in your role if you do not publish rational arguments for both sides of this debate. The market will become much simpler following Ofgem’s review – I hope you will support whatever recommendations are implemented and continue to help members find their cheapest deals.

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Guest

I agree with you that Which? has failed to acknowledge the pros and cons over standing charges. From what I see, Which? keeps publishing the same proposition here, gets mixed feedback, and then publishes the same thing again. It’s time for Which? to develop a more sophisticated approach to energy pricing.

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Guest

I am such a low energy user (1300kWh a year with electric. 0 a year for gas) that i NEED a £0 standing charge.

I was with NPower. They brought in standing charges and my bill went up by £170 a year so right away I moved to SSE/Ebico for the £0 standing charge.

Then a few months later I wanted to get it down even more so i asked for a E7 meter to be installed. Now I get dirt cheap energy at night and normal rate in the day. It is taking a little longer than planned due to all the media stuff i have been doing. But slowly i am moving my life to get over 95% of my energy to be used between 12.00am – 7.00am while I am on dirt cheap energy,

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Lee, exactly. But use Ebico if you are a medium or high energy user and you’ll pay between 10 and 27% more for your energy than other tariffs. It is horses for courses.

Your mention of Economy 7 raises another issue that has been mentioned before. Off peak electricity is cheaper than peak time, so choosing such a tariff can save money – depending on how much you use; the peak tariff is more expensive, off peak less, so I reckon you need to use about 50% off peak to break even. Not quite so simple to work your best tariff out now, is it. If smart meters become widely used, then there could be more different unit rates applied at different times of the day. So how complex is estimating this then going to be? The oversimplistic single tariff argument becomes largely irrelevant. To make use of this you’ll need to monitor when your major electricity usage is, and then try to shift the main consumption to the cheaper times – washing machine, dishwasher, tumble drier, for example (and perhaps your electric car!).

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Guest

Malcolm: I agree. if my boyfriend came to live with me and my energy went up I will need to look around again as like you say, Ebico are only best for very low users like myself.

My plan is to live like this:
7.00am – 11.00am walk the dog, eat breakfast and do little cleaning while checking Twitter/News on my mobile. Using 0 energy apart from the fridge.
11.00am sleep till around 7.00pm, Using 0 energy apart from the fridge.
7.00pm – 12.00am walk the dog again, cleaning again, watch a few DVD’s on my portable DVD players that run on the battery charged up (I own 3) again, use my mobile for twitter/news. Using 0 energy apart from the fridge.
12.00am – 7.00am. Get all my work done on my laptop, charge my mobile, tablet, DVD players, cook my meal and get everything i need to do when the energy is cheap.

This is how I meant to live my life from last month. But with everything going on I needed to be awake all day. So am hoping to start it from October 7th.

I am excited to see how much my energy bills go down by doing this. But as you said Malcolm, next time I change energy companies it will be awful now I have a day rate and a night rate.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

Malcolm R – ” The debate about tariffs has been widely aired in a number of conversations and still Which? ignores the differing views. It does not present a balanced argument on the pros and cons but pursues a blinkered approach that only its proposal should be adopted. I don’t know whether this represents the views of the majority of its members – it won’t say. ”

I agree with you whole-heartedly. And thank-you for pointing out that the matter was already pretty much dealt with.

That the proposals are out for viewing yet are not highlighted by Which? is disturbing. If Which? feel they are flawed recommendations then actually provide a reasoned argument for their case. This article does nothing other than obscure – a re-direct here seems fair
https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/retail-market-review

“The reforms we propose are designed to make the market simpler by:

– eradicating complex and confusing multi-tier tariffs
– creating easy to compare uniformity by making sure that all tariffs have a standing charge (which can be zero) and a unit rate
– aiding comparison between suppliers through the creation of a standard tariff information label
– limiting the number of different tariffs offered by a gas or electricity supplier to just four core tariffs
– making sure dual fuel discounts remain and are applied uniformly across all tariffs
– allowing suppliers to keep customers on tariffs that no longer exist (dead tariffs) only if they offer value for money; if not the customers should be transferred onto the cheapest variable deal.”

Profile photo of ChrisGloucester
Guest

Utility pricing is of course confusing. The myriad of tariffs are designed to be confusing and are there to make the consumer “think” they are getting the best deal.

Any campaign to go to single price tariffs with no standing charge or multiple tier pricing for different levels of consumption gets my vote every time.
Low users won’t subsidize higher users and comparison between suppliers would be easy to understand by everyone.

I’d suggest anyone wanting to keep the existing smoke and mirrors approach just want to try to secure a better deal for themselves at the expense of every or anyone else.

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Guest

I am astonished how simplistic Which? can be. Let us consider a nice country holiday cottage /second home where the supply is guaranteed and the small amount of utility metered means the owners get a bargain if they never pay infrastructure costs.

I am not sure why Which? would want me or anyone else to subsidise them. I would hate to think its only people in this situation are pressing for the single tariff !

Incidentally Ellie some tips,
” But I’ve just moved to a completely different type of house and have no idea how much gas and electricity I’m likely to use this year.”

I always ask to see utility bills before even offering and of course ascertain the lifestyle of the current owner. A worker who is out all day is likely to use less than a family with children, Finding out on condition of roof and state of the heating system, the likelihood of development nearby – all part of moving. Speaking to your potential neighbours is a mine of information.

To be fair if you have had bills in the past you should have a rough idea on how you use your utilities. The variable will be the heating costs as use of electricity for lighting and running TV computer etc and gas for cooking surely remains pretty much the same.

Profile photo of ChrisGloucester
Guest

So dieseltaylor,

“Let us consider a nice country holiday cottage /second home”?
“where the supply is guaranteed and the small amount of utility metered means the owners get a bargain if they never pay infrastructure costs”????

So on this basis you are in favour of standing charges, to cover infrastructure costs???

Let us consider an alternative scenario, A widowed pensioner using a “small amount of utility metered” out of necessity rather than choice because they cannot afford to use as much as they might like.?

You’d argue they should pay standing charges and subsidies high users, who if they use enough and if they’re on a multiple-tier tariff pay an even lower unit cost ???

I’d argue there are a lot more cash strapped pensioners than wealthy second home owners and I would also even argue that standing charges and multiple-tier price tariffs are fundamentally unfair to all of consumers.

I’d liken standing charges to paying an admission fee to enter a supermarket to by groceries. Tesco has an infrastructure to pay for too but no standing charges are there???

Standing charges and multiple-tier price tariffs are rip-off Britain at it’s worse, and I simply cannot understand where any fair minded person is coming from if they approve of them.
I can only assume they are higher users and their position of standing charge support is based on greed

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

” I’d suggest anyone wanting to keep the existing smoke and mirrors approach just want to try to secure a better deal for themselves at the expense of every or anyone else.”

My example was chosen to illustrate that it is not always clear cut who winners and losers are. My support for Ofgem’s proposal is on the very pragmatic grounds that they are just about to massacre the tariff system and I see no point at all in bellyaching about a better system that has not a hope in hell of being adopted this side of 2020. Get Ofgems proposals in place and then we can restart the discussion in the light of what is available then.

I have to admit that I am not privy to all of Ofgem’s two years of discussions with consumer groups and the industry so I quite prepared to give them the benefit of doubt if they decide that including everything in a single tariff is not the panacea.

I am not intrinsically opposed to a single tariff however generally speaking if offered a simple solution I start looking for the compromises involved.

Guest
Anne Thomas says:
16 September 2013

The Scottish Green Party wrote to Ofgem to ask them to scrap the standing charge as unfair on the poor and those who are generating their own electricity. They chose to ignore us and make it compulsory for companies to include a standing charge but said it could be zero. Here in Highlands this means that the poor and energy efficient are spending an average or about £100 a year before they use electricity and subsidising those who use the most.
It would be better if like Vehicle Excise Tax Discs, those who produce the least pollution are charged the least, so insentivising people to save energy.
Failing this that utility charges can be priced in a similar way to petrol and diesel.
Please can ‘Which’ join us in highlighting the unfairness of this?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Anne – Ofgem propose tariffs consisting of a unit charge only, or a unit charge plus standing charge (because the standing charge can be zero). Are you suggesting that nowhere in the Highlands can you get, or will be able to get, a tariff without a £100 standing charge?
There are currently a number of tariffs generally available that have no standing charge, so those who use little energy can opt for a unit-charge-only tariff (as Ebico mentioned above) if it gives them the lowest annual bill. The “poor” are not penalised – they have a choice. Other users should also have a choice that gives them also their lowest annual bill. Energy supply has a fixed-cost element (i.e. on top of the raw energy cost) that someone has to pay for, and this needs to be fairly applied.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

In talking of subsidies perhaps we need to quantify the cost of getting power to a small village or croft in the glens. Now I imagine the cost per property is enormously higher given the length of overhead cable and the requirements to replace from wear and tear, or from weather damage.

Most people would think you are having a laugh if you asked them to be responsible for your supply, its quick reconnection in an emergency, and for maintaining a mile or two of overhead cable for the sake of say £50 p.a. profit. I understand to connect a new build a mile quotes are around £58,000 but even allowing for a 100 or 200% mark-up there is a considerable cost in putting that much copper in a cable over that distance. Obviously in an already connected property there are only emergencies and long term replacement to consider. How many years on a usage tariff before the money is recovered?

For a greater insight GoogleBooks gives some interesting reading in this book:
“Wood Pole Overhead Lines” by Brian Wareing

Given a choice I suspect most people would avoid supplying isolated areas but in response to a national mandate all areas in the UK were connected. If the Scottish Parliament wishes to equalise costs over Scotland I am sure it can apply suitable pressure or rebates to those it chooses.

Guest
Les Tyler says:
17 September 2013

I do not believe that I have paid over the odds for energy but I have spent a lot of time and “energy” checking and making sure. It is a far from simple task and you cannot believe a calculation done for you by the suppliers. The only accurate measure is from first principles knowing your usage and fathoming out what a KWHr actually costs. Gas meter readings do not equal KWHrs so you also need to know the calorific value of the gas you are supplied with and the conversion rate the supplier uses. These numbers are not always easy to find.

We used to buy energy by the KWHr before privatisation. Let’s get back to it!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Les, you are correct in some of what you say. Because gas at different times has different energy content per cubic meter (presumably depending on the source of the gas) your meter cannot read in kWh. It has always been so (except once it was cubic feet!).
To convert your meter reading in cubic meters to kWh:
kWh = Cu.M x CF x CV / 3.6
Cu.M is your meter usage, CF is a correction factor (given on your bill, e.g. 1.02264 ), CV is Calorific Value (given on your bill, e.g. 39.0). So 10 Cu.M = 222kWh here.
If you don’t trust the energy company to give you a correct calculation (not sure why you should have this view) then check using the above, or go to Which Switch and enter your annual kWh usage for gas and electricity and the calculations will be done for you. This bit is a doddle.

Guest
Telent says:
22 September 2013

I strongly support the simplification of tariffs but am unclear what we mean by a single unit price. I can see how each supplier might have a single unit price for gas and a single unit price for electricity but the cheapest supplier for a specific consumer would then depend on the proportions of the two fuels that are used. Am I missing something here?

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Guest

Telent, you can buy your gas and electricity from different suppliers on the tariffs that best match your usage, but you will not benefit from any dual fuel discount. This might make buying from a single supplier the lower total cost option.

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Guest

I have just changed gas supplier to one with a very high standing charge but a very low unit rate (Pioneer). As a high user, this tariff makes sense for me (as confirmed Which’s own comparison tool). Why should Which? try to ban such tariffs? If some energy companies want to target high users and others want to target low users, surely that’s an example of the market working efficiently?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Jeremy, what you describe give consumers a choice of whether they pay a separate charge towards non-fuel costs plus a unit cost largely for fuel, or pay a higher unit cost for combined fuel+non-fuel costs. The most favourable result to the consumer depends on the amount of fuel they, of necessity, need to use. Why anyone should seek to ban such choice is difficult to comprehend. Non-fuel costs have to be payed for.

Guest
Mr Peter Whittaker says:
7 October 2013

I am with EDF and until now they have supplied me with both Gas & Electricity. From March 9th to September 26th 2013 my gas useage was £5.05 and the standing charge for the same period was £50.50. I have now gone all electric. I asked for the gas meter to be removed and was given the date 16/10/2013. EDF phoned me earlier to say the date for removal has changed and will now be 6th November. Some energy companies are so frustrating.
Peter Whittaker

Profile photo of kennethraine
Guest

A lot of institutions use the confusion method when selling these packaged products, its hard to tell which one is suitable, we might say ” banks do it, building societies do it, even educated fleas do it. Before Mr Milliband freezes energy prices, he should make unit prices transparent, likewise before a euro referendum lets have a change in the terms & conditions of that membership.

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Guest

I have had Solar panels fitted nearly 2 years ago, then with my electricity bills soaring to more not less, I had Brit Gas check my meter.
It turned out my standard digital but clockwork meter was not compatible with Solar panels, instead of nocking off my daytime generation units it was adding them on to the main house meter, British gas are now trying to work out how much refund I need to be correct backdated plus interest on the amount.

If you have Solar Panels, I suggest you have your meter checked as soon as possible, it has to be the latest electronic meter.

Guest
Jeanie says:
12 October 2013

I changed supplier in November last when I was told DD would be £83 per month. In Feb 2013 I was told I would have to increase this to £88.50. In April I was told I would have to increase this to £103.50. I then changed supplier. I then received a final bill requiring me to pay £323.85. I am a pensioner and live alone. In the evening I have on only one energysaving light, my tv and fridge/freezer
For 6 months supply I had to pay £853.35. I consider this daylight robbery

Guest
Telent says:
2 November 2013

Just saw your comment Jennie. It does sound a high charge. If you still have the relevant bills it might be worth getting someone to check them out, eg Citizens Advice Bureau. If they have overcharged you could reclaim the excess amount.

Guest
Aaron says:
15 October 2013

I know this relates to a small percentage of energy customers, but these mandatory Ofgem standing charges have just hit me in an unexpected way via pre-payment meters in a property I no longer own.

I used to live in the property but moved out 7 years ago. Since then i’ve been renting via an agent but, as it’s in an undesirable location, it’s been empty most of the time and I managed to sell it, much to my relief, a few months ago.

End of September, I receive a letter from e.on threatening legal action if I don’t pay an outstanding gas bill of £58.25 as I “do not wish to settle this matter”.

After a slightly heated phone call explaining I was unaware of any bill, eon agreed to send the final bill to my correspondence address as I refused to pay until i’d at least seen the bill.

I said that the property had been empty for 6 months and they explained the bill would probably be mostly standing charges and the property owner is liable.

I phoned my agent who said this was due to Ofgem making standing charges mandatory and I would unfortunately have to pay.

So, the bill arrived. Final reading – estimated, previous reading – estimated. I thought I had them, even though I knew this would be due it being a pre-payment meter.

I phoned them today, knowing I’d probably have to pay, but threatened with going to Ombudsman. They basically said I could if I wish, but others have done so and the Ombudsman ruled in the energy companies favour due to Ofgem making the charges mandatory in December, and they would not be refunding the charges to the account.

Fuming, I said I’d pay it. They said it’d be over £100!

Reason being, there’s an electricity bill I should have received too. Great, thanks e.on and thank you so very much Ofgem – you’ve given the energy companies another way of making money for nothing. These pre-payment meters are supposed to help keep landlords safe from tenants racking up large bills. They don’t stop the energy companies doing it now though. Boy am I glad i’m not a landlord anymore.

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Guest

Please remember Aaron, yes there is a mandatory standing charge…BUT…the mandatory standing charge CAN be £0.

This is something the bigger energy companies fail to mention. I do not pay standing charge and if you ever find yourself in that problem again change energy companies. Ebico and Scottish Power have a £0 standing charge tariff as the time I am posting this comment.

Profile photo of jak
Guest

Aaron, you might want to check whether they had given you appropriate notice of the change in tariffs. When the standing charge was imposed, where did they write to? Normally in a rented property the landlord becomes liable once the tenant has left. Did you provide your correspondence address at that point? I know from personal experience that the energy companies are not good at keeping tabs on landlord addresses. If you could show that they had your correspondence address but they sent the letter to the property address then you would have a case.

Guest
Aaron says:
15 October 2013

Yes, I’d read in another few posts about the zero standing charge, but like I said, it does give the unscrupulous energy companies another way to get money out of people for supplying nothing in return.

One point I forgot to make, they had the cheek of charging me 1.5% for paying the bill with a credit card. Unbelievable.

I will still be going to the Ombudsman, even though e.on said they would find in their favour due to previous cases. They did tell me that they would not be removing the standing charges as Ofgem deem them as mandatory. So i’ll use the £0 standing charge as my case in point.

Thanks Lee

Guest
Aaron says:
15 October 2013

Jeremy,
Unfortunately, I think they got my correspondence address from the new owners at beginning of September. But thank you anyway.

Guest
Dianne says:
28 February 2014

Scottish Power are now charging a Standing Charge. Found out by accident, tho’. They never informed me.

Guest
Aaron says:
15 October 2013

Yes, I’d read in another few posts about the zero standing charge, but like I said, it does give the unscrupulous energy companies another way to get money out of people for supplying nothing in return.

One point I forgot to make, they had the cheek of charging me 1.5% for paying the bill with a credit card. Unbelievable.

I will still be going to the Ombudsman, even though e.on said they would find in their favour due to previous cases. They did tell me that they would not be removing the standing charges as Ofgem deem them as mandatory. So i’ll use the £0 standing charge as my case in point.

Thanks Lee

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

Aaron – I assume you are being ironic:

“One point I forgot to make, they had the cheek of charging me 1.5% for paying the bill with a credit card. Unbelievable.”

Given that the card companies charge all businesses a percentage of the total sum I think it does help to think of credit card companies as blood sucking leeches who rely on people desire for convenience to extort money from businesses.

Incidentally Which? has perhaps not helped by insisting that 2% is the maximum that a business can charge for accepting credit card payment. Given many businesses have to pay more than that to have credit cards as a payment option it does seem particularly harsh on the small businesses that cannot negotiate such fine rates as 1.5%.

Guest
Jackie says:
18 October 2013

Prior to returning to the UK after two years, I have just tried to find out the price per kwh for the various tariffs on the Southern Electric and British Gas websites. It took ages and was hopeless. I couldn’t find a price per kwh anywhere. I didn’t get as far as asking about gas prices; the whole experience was too dispiriting.
It used to be much clearer; something is very wrong at the moment.
Also, I didn’t know that prices are different in different parts of the country; something to be aware of when moving home, perhaps. One might as well end up on the less expensive side of a divide.

Guest
Telent says:
2 November 2013

I understand your frustration Jackie. From my experience the big companies don’t show their tariffs on their websites. In contrast Cooperative Energy show their current and previous tariffs on their website. They can do this because they don’t have a multiplicity of different and confusing tariffs. It would help if all suppliers were required to show their tariffs on their websites.

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Guest

Jackie, usually you can find the available tariffs from a supplier if you put in your post code. This may be after finding their “tariff” link in the menu, or by clicking the quote button.
For example – go to British Gas website, click “our tariffs” then “tariff rates”.
Go to EDF click “get a quote”, enter post code, tariff type and fuel, click “show my unit rates”.
Alternatively you can use the Switch with Which website, enter your details, and get a list of quotes. Each option allows you to look at the relevant tariffs – standing charges and unit rates.

Guest
Jackie says:
3 November 2013

Thanks for that, Malcolm. British Gas were v helpful and sent details by email. Southern Electric just sends automated emails saying they have detected a dangerous situation – rubbish. And then they congratulate me on choosing them, which I haven’t. I shall get away from S Elec a.s.a.p. Have now found their tariffs, hidden below fictional figures for what one might use over a year; they haven’t a clue what my circs are of course. I always used to be on a no-standing-charge tariff as I’m away a lot; so Utility Warehouse look good. I found them on the Telegraph comparison site. Shall also look at Switch with Which, and U Switch.

Guest
jessie46 says:
19 October 2013

I stay in an all electric flat — we have no alternate as no gas available — I tried to change to another

tariff with my supplier which would save well over £100 a year which is great as we are both pensioners.

I had a long conversation with an employee and yes everything was in place — now I have received

a letter telling me I can’t go on to this new tariff as I don’t have a standard meter.

We have three meters — all which have been in the flat since we moved in over 20 years ago.

Anyone any ideas what they mean by this term non standard.

Thank you

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Guest

jessie, your proposed supplier should change your meter upon request free of charge. That should enable you to take advantage of your chosen tariff.

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Guest

I thought they only changed your meter ‘free of charge’ if they tested it and found it to be faulty. I was told this by EoN, my supplier for many years, and if the meter was found to be working OK, I would have to pay the cost of the test. I still have the ‘clocks’ style meter and hate reading it. If I could have it changed for free then I would do it.

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Guest

Indeed. NPower just sent me their revised Tc&Cs. They say they charge to change a meter that is not compatible with their system. Pity they don’t say up front what types of meter are or are not compatible.

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Guest

Figgerty – Electricity and gas meters are changed periodically and it might be your turn soon. 🙂

Electricity meters are rarely faulty and supply companies are allowed to make a charge for testing meters. This is not always levied and it is worth anyone who suspects a problem to discuss this with their supplier. It is quick and easy to check that an electricity meter is reasonably accurate by using a known load with everything else switched off.

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Guest

It seems they can recalibrate them instead of changing them. I have not had my meter checked by anyone but the meter reader in about 30 years. At some point he has put a yellow sticker on the meter and that appears to be recalibrating it. I know that the meter has never been removed as I would have had to take time off work to allow access and that never happened. How they recalibrate I have no idea. Perhaps they just point keys at it and bingo, it’s recalibrated.

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Guest

Your dial electricity meter will be a mechanical type and you can probably see the screw or other adjuster used for calibration. It may be marked +/- or S/F (i.e. slow/fast). This can only be adjusted by breaking the company’s seal to remove the cover. I have not heard of electricity meters being routinely checked.

Gas meters are more likely to be a problem and some models are known to over-read as they age. I have had my gas meter replaced twice and electricity meter once in the past 30 years.

Guest
Trevor Surrey says:
20 October 2013

Trouble is its all right to say change your supplier then what happens they put there prices up so you cant win since they privatized the Energy Industry we are being held to Ransom .God help us if as it seems possible we get a really bad winter like 1962/63

Guest
Telent says:
2 November 2013

My quarterly bills from Cooperative Energy include a historical usage summary of my gas and electricty usage for the past 4 quarters, giving me annual usage data. This is essential information for running price comparisons . It is also useful to see whether one’s usage is increasing or decreasing over time. Do other suppliers provide this information?

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Guest

Telent, npower gives me this for current and previous years.

Guest
Ann T says:
21 February 2014

I switched to a company called D-Energi for our small bed and breakfast but had not realized that they charge a distribution fee of 98p a day for both gas and electricity as well as a Kwh charge and a standing charge per day. I was also surprised that I will be charged a minimum annual charge based on the previous year and not on the amount of energy we use.

Unfortunately the salespeople are absolutely charming and persuaded me to sign within an hour or so and send back to secure rates. I checked the quoted Kwh and standing charge but did not read carefully enough the extra charges as the salesperson had not alerted me to any extra charges and presumed the only extra charges were VAT and Climate Change Levy.

Feel a fool as I am stuck with them for a year and the termination charge is £7,000.

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Guest

I wonder whether you might be covered by the doorstep regulations – http://www.gov.uk/doorstep-selling-regulations – which give certain cancellation rights.

Guest
Dianne says:
28 February 2014

SCOTTISH POWER AND STANDING CAHRGES
I do not use gas, although I do have a gas metre. Scottish Power have just informed me that the government has made it compulsory for companies to impose a Standing Charge on their meters even if they are not used. Comments, anybody?

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Guest

If you don’t use gas then there is no need for you to have a gas supply contract. The presence of a meter is neither here nor there; the supplier can remove it if they wish.

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Guest

My gas was with Scottish Power too, i never used Gas and they had a no standing charge so it was perfect, Till last month and they billed me and it turned out they scrapped standing charged in December but didn’t bother telling me.

I really kicked off on Twitter bad and with the help of Which Scottish Power cancelled the bill, gave me £50 compo for not letting me the tariff was changing and my gas supply is now with Ebico who I have had my elec with the for years.

http://howilivemylife.co.uk/special-blog-postscottish-power/

(Legally every energy supplier now has to have a standing charge, so Ebico’s is £0.00)

Guest
Dianne says:
28 February 2014

Thank you. I will cancel the gas contract part. It is costing me26p per day, although I do save £10 per year with dual fuel savings-it doesn’t cover the extra standing charge tho.

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Guest

I am not sure you can just cancel the gas contract, as you are connected (presumably) to the gas main. You may have to have your gas supply disconnected, or switch (e.g. to Ebico with no standing charge).Standing charges are to cover fixed costs that energy companies incur – meter maintenance and reading, account administration etc. You could switch to a company that has a low dual fuel standing charge – I’ve found one at £52, one at £88.

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Guest

Ofgem are investigating ways of dealing with zero energy users:

“Request For Information – Standing charge for gas customers with zero consumption
Publication date
20th February 2014
Information type
Open letters & correspondence
Policy area(s)
Electricity – retail markets
Gas – retail markets
Ofgem has received correspondence from consumers, their elected representatives across Great Britain, and from consumer bodies on the impact of standing charges on certain groups.

This correspondence has highlighted a number of concerns about the fairness of some consumers, who do not use their gas supply and therefore have zero consumption, having to pay a standing charge.

In this letter, we ask domestic suppliers about the actions they are taking to meet the needs of gas consumers who have low to zero consumption.”

Guest
CB says:
15 July 2014

First utility just increased my standing charge by almost 100%. Is is appalling. What is Offgem doing about this? Aren’t they supposed to protect consumers? This is particularly bad for low users and is how the utility companies are making money when consumers are cutting usage. I am disgusted with the way Offgem are letting them get away with it….once again the consumer is ripped off!!!

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Guest

http://regulationbodyofknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Gomez-Lobo_The_Welfare_Consequences.pdf

“The Welfare Consequences of Tariff Rebalancing in the Domestic Gas Market”
Written in 1996 discusses how competition would lead to the ending of cross-subsidies for fixed charges. Essentially low users of power were being subsidised by larger users.

One of the answers:
“Pensioners, for example,receive benefits that are linked to weather conditions as a way to compensate for higher energy bills. Programmes such as thisis could be expanded if negative distributional effects on some groups are to be avoided by tariff restructuring.The advantage of these programmes is that they address distributional issues through the welfare system and thus allow prices to be set by efficiency considerations only. ”

I note that several cases in the press cited OAP’s who just use gas for a small amount of cooking. The easy answer for high standing charges is logically that they cook using electricity.

Guest
Sally says:
14 May 2015

The reason for the confusing bills and tariffs is done on purpose to do just that, confuse you. You are then more likely no to move or take the gamble on changing tariff. The whole UK energy system is out to scam you and theres nothing you can do about it. You always end up paying over the top so the only way to try and win is to use less electricity, install low energy bulbs etc. BUT you will then be paying for spectacles for your families damaged eyes from poor lighting. Its a no win situation.

Guest
CLIVE DESCOMBES says:
7 June 2016

Standing charges should be controlled by regulation or not charged at all by any of the energy companies,the price of electricity in this country is scandalous my friend in Thailand runs his aircon cooks has his tv on all day and has a 12hr period every day of darkness when it is necessary to have his lights on as well as ancilliary
products using power yet his bill is between £15-18 per month in this third world country and yet we who who are supposed to be tech savvy pay extortionate rates for our power merely to boost the profits of some fatcats.

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Guest

One might think living in a tropical country that energy needs would be substantially less.

Heating of water is assisted by a roof-mounted hot water cylinder. Though with normal Thai temperatures I suspect cold showers are more welcomed. No requirement of heat from users to stay alive in “winter” either.

Given the equable climate then the entire grid and generating system can be sized for one type of climate with no need to have surplus power stations for winter demands.

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Guest
Guest
Bob goode says:
14 August 2016

Look, just have the same standing charge across all suppliers, say 15p per day per meter, then the suppliers will have to fight for your custom by offering the best price per kWh, simple.
Why do we always try and make things so difficult .

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Guest

The costs that make up a standing charge will vary from supplier to supplier. I see no point in forcing them all to charge the same; it simply means some will be better rewarded, artificially, than others. What matters is your total estimated bill. Most people have a dual fuel contract; to see how to get the best deal means not just looking at unit charges but the proportion spent on gas, and on electricity, as one supplier may be more competitive for gas than anther, and less so for electricity.

There is no escaping doing simple arithmetic if you are looking for the cheapest supplier. But this can all be avoided, and far more deals examined, by using Which?Switch. All the deals are shown not only as total estimated cost, whether standing charges are involved or not, but also how much you might save, or lose, compared with your present deal.