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Update: will the proposed energy price cap be enough?

Energy prices

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to tackle rip-off energy bills with an energy price cap. But will such a cap be enough to help you?

Update: 6 September 2018

Households on the most expensive energy tariffs could save around £120 per year when a new price cap comes into force this winter. But the cap doesn’t mean you’re protected from overpaying on gas and electricity – switching supplier will save you more.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said:

“While this cap may bring a price cut for some, people shouldn’t think it will mean they’re automatically getting the cheapest deal on the market. There are still better deals on the market and energy companies must not use the cap as an excuse to delay helping the millions of customers stuck on rip-off standard variable tariffs to move. The price cap can only be a temporary fix and the Government, regulators and the big providers should now press ahead with reforms to create real competition, promote innovation and improve customer service”

Energy price cap

During her speech to Conservative Party Conference, Theresa May announced plans for an energy price cap. The Prime Minister said:

‘The energy market punishes loyalty with higher prices, and the most loyal customers are often those with lower incomes, the elderly, people with lower qualifications and people who rent their homes’

And announced that a draft Bill will be published next week that would give Ofgem powers to impose a cap on all standard variable tariffs.

The move puts an end to months of buck-passing between the government and Ofgem about how to tackle soaring household energy bills. And it looks like it could finally deliver on the government’s pledges made during the General Election.

There are millions of hard-pressed energy customers still suffering due to a lack of competition in the energy market. So any intervention that brings down energy bills will be welcome.

That said, in bringing forward this legislation, the government must ensure that any cap doesn’t result in higher bills overall, undermine improvements in service or bring much-needed innovation to a halt.

To ensure that any intervention that’s made by the government is actually a good outcome for bill payers, we believe that it should pass five key tests.

1. It must not cause longer-term price increases
If bill payers see price reductions overnight, but energy providers offset initial reductions with price increases over the long-term, the cap won’t have worked.

2. It must not remove incentives for providers to improve their service
Consumers have routinely suffered from poor customer service from many suppliers and have faced particular issues with inaccurate bills and poor complaint handling.

3. It must not stifle innovation
The government and the regulator must ensure that the cap does not stop consumer-friendly innovation in the energy market. They must ensure that the smart meter roll-out continues to be advanced in the most cost-effective way possible.

4. It must lead to a truly competitive energy market
Consumers have suffered as a result of a lack of competition in the energy market with the competition authorities estimating that people are collectively overpaying by £1.2bn as a result.

5. It must have clear criteria for bringing any cap to an end
The long-term objective must be for a competitive energy market that delivers for consumers. This means that any price cap should be time-limited. The government and the regulator must set out proposals for the length of the cap, how they will monitor its success, and the criteria by which it will be removed.

Fairer energy

Of course, the cap will not take effect this winter, which may be a disappointment to those who are already concerned about energy costs as we descend into the colder, darker months.

With a number of price hikes by a number of larger and smaller energy suppliers in recent months, energy prices are returning as a top financial concern for many. So the draft Bill must make the most of the opportunity to fix this broken market and deliver a fairer deal.

Now we await the publication of the draft Bill and the full details of the Prime Minister’s proposal.

Update: 11 October 2017

The energy regulator, Ofgem, will extend its current price cap for prepayment gas and electricity meter customers to cover an additional one million households this winter.

The plan will see energy bills cut by an average of £120 over the year for some of the UK’s most vulnerable households, according to the regulator.

The regulator has also said that it will begin consulting on extending the price cap for a further two million households for next winter, once the government’s price cap plans are confirmed. The Prime Minister announced last week that the government will prepare a draft bill to propose an energy price cap, this draft bill is expected tomorrow.

Our managing director of home and legal services, Alex Neill, said:

‘As temperatures dip, today’s announcement will be welcome news to some of the UK’s most vulnerable households. The implementation of a market-wide price cap is clearly going to take some time, so it’s right that the regulator is looking to more quickly protect the most vulnerable.

‘Energy companies must also do much more to engage their customers, helping them to switch to a better deal now. Only time will tell whether all of these interventions will really deliver better outcomes for consumers.’

We want to see a fairer energy market for all households. Every household, even those affected by the energy price cap, could get a better deal by switching. Our free Which? Switch service can help you compare gas and electricity prices and help you find the best deal for you.

Do you think a price cap will be the solution we need to fix the energy market? What else would you like the government to do?

Update: 12 October 2017

We’ve been campaigning for many years to highlight the broken energy market. Over 500,000 supporters supported our Fair Energy Prices campaign, urging energy companies and the regulator to do more to get customers off rip-off standard variable tariffs (SVTs).

So the news that the government has published a draft bill to introduce a price cap should be welcome. But it isn’t quite so straightforward.

Two-thirds of households in England, Scotland and Wales will become much better off overnight when the cap is introduced, giving relief to hard-pressed consumers. 14 million people on SVTs will save themselves hundreds of pounds a year.

But although the Draft Bill requires Ofgem, the energy regulator, to put the cap in place as soon as possible, consumers shouldn’t expect to benefit soon. The Draft Bill will have to go through pre-legislative scrutiny first before a bill goes through the normal legislative process and Ofgem consults on the measure. Then there will be another step of statutory consultation to change energy suppliers’ licensing conditions. It’s unlikely the cap will come into force until winter 2018/19, to remain in place until at least 2020.

Whilst a cap may sound like a positive move, we want the government to safeguard against any unintended consequences like higher prices, reduced competition in the market and poorer customer service. So it is promising that the Draft Bill outlines a temporary cap, and Ofgem will be tasked with making sure competition and consumer incentives to switch are preserved. But there is a long road to travel down before we know what the actual cap will look like.

Update: 13 February 2018

A report published by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has concluded that the government’s proposed energy price cap is necessary to address the UK’s broken energy market.

According to the Committee, the energy market has been dysfunctional for years. It highlighted that the regulator has failed to protect energy customers.

The report found that many energy suppliers are making substantial profits out of around 12 million ‘sticky’ customers who are on poor-value tariffs. The committee believes that an absolute price cap is the best way to tackle this overcharging for energy.

The introduction of a price cap should be a helping hand for millions who are paying over the odds for their energy. However, we’ve stressed that this price cap should not lead to any unintended consequences for consumers, such as poor customer service or higher prices overall.

While the Committee has called for the cap to be urgently introduced, it’s not expected to come into effect until next winter at the earliest. Our research found that you could save up to £305 per year by switching*, so if you think you could be overpaying for your energy then try Which? Switch to compare prices and see if you could get a better energy deal. Even once the price cap is in force, you will have to switch to get the best deals on the market

*A saving of £305 per year is possible by switching from the priciest Big Six standard tariff to the cheapest deal on the market. The figure is correct as of the 1 February 2018.

Comments

Because I don’t want a smart meter E.On refuses to let me have their cheapest tariffs – can they legally do this?

They probably can, Mike. Within reason and with Ofgem’s approval they can attach such terms and conditions as they consider commercially appropriate to their various tariffs. Smart meters avoid the need for meter reading and estimating and make billing simpler; the supplier is entitled to pass on the benefit of that to the consumer. There are similar arrangements for dual-fuel, paperless billing, and direct debit payments. People who accept those terms have cheaper energy. Not all companies have the same policy and many alternative tariffs and suppliers are available.

Every year, I usually find that the cheapest tariffs are with another company. I’ll then switch accordingly.

I’m with First Utility had a smart metre fitted by them now they’ve been taken over by shell energy .. I want to know why the standing charges are so expensive from the same company.. and why the northwest pays more for utilities than any other area of England… first utility used to be competitive now it’s one of the most expensive energy firms

We want the truth about smart meters. The Chief of EDF said that they are inaccurate. Swedish researchers in Denmark have allegedly linked them to an increase in brain tumors in infants, because they emit radaition every six seconds. Many state that they cause headaches and migraines.They cause fires. Energy companies are still installing 1st phase meters which if one changes suppliers go dumb. They interfere with some burglar alarm systems. They contain a chip which monitors household energy habits and make meters easy to hack. They do not make the poor use less energy because they already are governed by cost. The majority of customers have found that their bills increase on so called smart meters. AT least 8 EU Countries refuse to install them. WHICH should publish the truth and not cosy up to the Government or interested parties.

Actually, the Swedish study in Denmark stated “The authors found little or no evidence that mobile phones increase brain tumor risk, and the single positive association could be explained by bias or chance.”

I, too, would like to see the truth about smart meters 😉

Here is the current government advice on the possibility of harm radio waves from smart meters: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health As with the mobile phones mentioned by Ian, there is no real evidence of a problem.

Various household items have caused concern in the past. I well remember concerns about microwave ovens, computer routers and LED bulbs, all of which operate at different radio frequencies. The problem is that it’s not possible to show that radio frequency emissions, medicines, chemicals used in the home, etc. are NOT harmful. I still follow the 20 year old advice of using my mobile phone in hands-free mode (except where it might annoy someone) and there is the bonus that I can get on with doing something during a conversation.

Had there been evidence for clear concern about smart meters and health we could use this to argue against government and industry spending a considerable amount of consumers money on fitting these meters. The possibility of variable electricity pricing has so far not materialised.

Despite all the pressure by energy supply companies to fit smart meters there is no requirement to have them. I don’t know anyone who has had them removed, but assume that this would incur a charge.

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I don’t claim any expertise here, Duncan, but I think I can distinguish between science and pseudoscience.

Everyone who is concerned about the possible effects of radio signals (i.e. electromagnetic radiation) should find out about the inverse square effect if they are not familiar with it. This means that the strength of radio signals diminishes very rapidly as we move away from the source. It’s a help that in modern houses, the electricity and gas meters tend to be outside rather than hidden under the stairs, and that also helps them relay their signals to the mobile network. I don’t believe the smart display unit transmits any signals and the function of smart meters does not depend on it being plugged in.

It’s also important to recognise that frequency is very important. For example, visible light in the frequency range of 400 – 700 nm is fine but changing the frequency to 280 nm corresponds to ultraviolet radiation that damages DNA.

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I’ve never checked my microwave oven (now 30 years old) for leakage but it’s kept clean and the door is not warped. The ones at work were tested but never condemned because of leakage

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“Visible light” is “very unique” 🙂

I doubt it will be long before energy companies add time-of-use tariffs to their offerings, something that smart meters not only allow for but are expected to do.

Electricity costs vary throughout the day and night because of variability of demand – it is cheaper at times of low demand, and higher when demand increases, the object being to keep the generators working at capacity. Industry already pays based on cost – often on tariffs that change every half hour. The same, or similar, can and will be done for domestic consumers – a far more detailed costing than the simple “off peak”. In principle, you can operate your heavier use appliances when electricity is cheapest. How many people will actually organise their lives around half-hourly tariffs remains to be seen. My guess is that cooking your evening meal will just get more expensive.

I hope variable billing is in place by the time I have an electric car.

Visible light and ultraviolet light are commonly used terms, used to distinguish regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, whereas ‘very unique’ may be tautology or ignorance.

Duncan – I guess you are referring to Percy Spencer.

Properly, visible radiation and UV radiation. By its definition, light is visible; we don’t have invisible light. Just saying 🙂

Wavechange said: ” I don’t know anyone who has had them removed, but assume that this would incur a charge.”

We had our smart meter removed and it incurred no charge. It didn’t work as we have no mobile signals where we live.

That’s a bit different, Ian, because your smart meter did not work. It would be interesting to know whether people are charged for removal of functional smart meters if they buy a home with them fitted. I don’t see any information about this on the Ofgem website.

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One sentence from Smart energy GB leapt out: “A spokesperson at Smart Energy GB, said: ‘There’s no reason why anyone should want to take the backward step of replacing a smart meter with an old analogue meter.’They’d go back to estimated bills, phoning in the meter reading, being in the dark about what they’re spending, or even having to go to the shop to top up the pre-pay key.”

Have they not heard of the internet?

🙂 I had been looking at the same articles as Duncan and Ian.

That article is little short of a promo for smart meters. It doesn’t actually say whether or not there would be a charge for having a smart meter removed and replaced with a dumb one because nobody really knows or is prepared to say; apparently, it all depends . . .

I wonder how much all the advertising for smart meters has cost. 🙁 It should have mentioned that there is no requirement to have them fitted.

My meter was installed by npower; when I changed to SP it went dumb. I find, surprisingly, my energy costs have not suddenly got out of control 🙂 . Perhaps that is because I know what energy I need to use and am prepared to pay accordingly. The point is, I do not subscribe to the claimed attribute of smart meters that suddenly we can monitor all our energy use and make immediate savings.

I read my meters monthly – takes a couple of minutes – and send them over the wireless system to my supplier. They, pretty well immediately, send me a bill over the air waves and I can see how my spending is going.

At some point my meter will no doubt be re-educated to work with any supplier – I look at whether to change supplier each year. A universal meter was always a “must” for the scheme to have any real credibility. A dismal failure of those in charge.

I do think SMs have uses. One is allowing half hourly tariffs to be introduced – although how the public will, on the while, cope with these will no doubt give rise to a heated Convo torrent. Most of us use most of our energy at the same time – heating, cooking, boiling the kettle for example – so we may all end up paying for more expensive energy, unless we stagger our meal times and have tv advert breaks at different times in different places.

The other is in the ability to selectively shed load, ensuring that when electricity begins to run out vulnerable customers are affected last. This might happen when gas for domestic use is phased out and we all run electric cars.

It did say that near the beginning, Wavechange: “There is no obligation to have a smart meter installed and it is up to the consumer whether they agree to have one or not.” This message is repeated [with a slight variation in wording] towards the end.

Perhaps I don’t pay enough attention to advertising, John, though I’m not planning to change that. I do look at what energy I’m using and it’s particularly reassuring to be able to monitor gas consumption when I’m away from home to ensure that the boiler is working and protecting the pipes from frost.

One can be forgiven for thinking it was an advertisement, Wavechange, but it is masquerading as journalism Daily Mail style.

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An interesting Q&A on the Home page [and others] was this:

Why do suppliers keep pushing Smart meters?
It may seem strange why suppliers keep pushing smart meters even though customers can just say no. The reason for this is that suppliers have to tell the regulator Ofgem every year what they will achieve by the end of the year in terms of % of customers with a Smart Meter, and they must not miss this target.
Ofgem will also check that the rate of installation is high enough to cover all customers by 2020, so suppliers can’t get away with just giving a low figure.
If suppliers don’t achieve this forecast then they get fined. For example EDF Energy was fined £350k in June 2018 for missing their own forecast target.

Now, who do we think will be paying that £350k fine imposed on EDF Energy?

I couldn’t see who was responsible for that website, Duncan, or to what extent it was “an official view” as you state. It seemed to be evenly balanced for and against, and identified the drawbacks, so I doubt it was government-sponsored, neither did it seem to be on behalf of the industry.

I can see no information on who operates this website, duncan. Official?

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No links to our godfathers, then? Pity.

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Perhaps it is Smart Meter Advice For Interested Applicants?

From the Smart Meters website cited by Duncan:
“Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home, and you can change your mind and accept one later. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. However there will come a time when only Smart Meters are available and so if your meter breaks due to a fault it will be replaced by a Smart Meter. See our Against page for information on why some people are worried about Smart Meters.”

That’s a bit of a threat.

The information given is that ” a consumer can ask for a smart meter to be removed at any time, but a supplier could levy a charge for the cost of the switch – although it admitted it hadn’t heard of this happening.

Instead of having one removed consumers could also ask for the meter to be operated in ‘dumb’ mode, which simply means the ‘smart’ aspect would be switched off and they would have to go back to giving manual readings.“. The “unofficial” site may say that somewhere else, but not here. Complete information is important.

Complete information should include a clear statement of which organisation has provided the information and the date. We know from other sources that smart meters are not rolling out as fast as intended.

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I can just about cope with childish logos if information is accurate, honest and unbiased. At least we know who is responsible for this website.

The childish images are Gaz and Leccy who have appeared in childish television adverts on behalf of Smart Energy GB.

From the company’s title I deduce that Northern Ireland is not included in the UK government’s smart meter programme.

I think I can explain, John: “The Department for the Economy (DfE) has no plans at present to install smart meters in Northern Ireland (these programmes are ongoing in Great Britain and Republic of Ireland).” https://www.nienetworks.co.uk/meterupdate

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What is odd about NI is they carried out a trial of smart meters in Coleraine that had the desired effects – save money and reduced the tea time peak (for how long these effects would persist we’ll never know though).
https://www.nienetworks.co.uk/documents/shift-save-leaflet.aspx

Arlene Foster promised smart meters (she who presided over the scandal of biomass subsidies):

”Belfast, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — August 3, 2012 – Electricity smart meters will be installed in homes in Northern Ireland by 2020, energy minister Arlene Foster announced earlier this week.
Initially the rollout will cover only electricity consumers, as the number of gas consumers (135,000) is too small for gas smart metering to be cost effective. However, by 2015 the number of gas consumers will have increased and the options for gas smart metering will be reviewed again at that time.
“The Northern Ireland Government is serious about changing energy consumption and smart meters are key to shifting consumer behavior,” said Foster. “The (smart meters) will also play a key part in developing a wider smart grid for Northern Ireland in the future.”

But nothing came of it. So NI will be different from GB and Eire (who do have smart meters). Is there some logic in all of this?

With regard to NI, I believe it is inevitable that, sooner or later, the will of its people will favour a re-united Ireland and a Dis-United Kingdom. In accordance with the long established principle of what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, I’m sure that getting Brexit done will facilitate the eventual break-up of the UK.

Duncan – Northern Ireland is a devolved administration [and has been for far longer than Scotland and Wales] so the present set-up is a result of self determination in many areas outside of foreign policy and defence. I don’t think there is any suggestion that the Irish Republic desires to “swallow up” Northern Ireland, but it would not be unhappy if that came about by consent, of course. I don’t think we in Great Britain have the right to presume to know best what constitutional arrangements should emerge. As Derek says, any reunification within the island of Ireland will come about through the expressed will of its people on both sides – peacefully I hope.

We should bear in mind also that the DUP does not speak for the entire community of Northern Ireland; it professes support for remaining in the union and outside the EU but to my mind seems to be going about achieving that in a peculiar way.

There does seem to be considerable cooperation between the Eire and Northern Ireland over the supply of electricity. The [now defunct] European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill contained special protection for Northern Ireland to remain aligned with specific EU rules in customs, goods, VAT, and the Single Electricity Market for so long as the people of Northern Ireland wish that to continue.

I remain perplexed over the origins of the Smartme.co.uk website and cannot believe it has anything to do, officially, with the University of Messina, and yet it is impossible to find out any more about its status. It is however, very informative, and not obviously promotional one way or the other. Perhaps it is just a vehicle for getting people to see the numerous adverts on the site.

The website is extremely comprehensive, has gathered together a huge amount of information [look under Documents], and appears to be very responsible. There are references in various places to “we” and “the editor” without any explanation or identification. I just wonder why it is acting so secretively and what lies behind it.

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Since the ‘smartme.co.uk’ website is so even handed and comprehensive I do not believe it is a creation of the UK government or the UK energy industry.

I believe you might be confusing ‘smartme.co.uk’ with the government-inspired website
‘smartenergygb.org’ which you provided a link to here –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/theresa-may-energy-cap-conservative-conference/#comment-1578630.
That is unashamedly promoting smart meters and makes no attempt to disguise the fact.

In read all your posts, Duncan. They keep me on my toes.

Duncan – Who has told Scotland “we will build a new Hadrian’s wall for the customs & excise on the border if you try to leave the Union”? I suspect it is just wishful thinking and not a specific promise.

Don’t mention energy and the DUP to anyone in Northern Ireland at the moment. A book has just been published into the renewable heating incentive scandal and it seems like everyone is talking about it.

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Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom. It should respect that. If its powers that be manage to persuade their people to change their mind and achieve independence then it can go its own way, stand on its own feet, and make a deal with the EU.

I wonder if London – who voted strongly to remain – should also set out to thwart the will of the (UK) people, seek independence and stay in the EU?

“the renewable heating incentive scandal” – its discovery goes back to 2016 when Arlene Foster was instrumental in introducing an incompetent (at the very least) scheme where energy users were incentivised to burn wood pellets instead of fossil fuel. Unfortunately the incentive offered was greater than the cost of the pellets, so people burned theo stuff even when heating was not needed, just to make money.

Arlene never took any responsibility for her incompetence and, as a result, the NI government effectively ceased to administer.

These are the kind of people who are determining the future of the whole of the UK. What ever can we do to get a properly-managed country?

Many in England, and not just Scots, would probably like to have the chance to vote in a Scottish independence referendum just to nail the result. It was 55/44% last time so a sizeable swing is required to produce Scexit. The Westminster government has to allow a referendum in the first place but withholding consent might not be realistically possible, or they might just say ‘GO’!

I did not pay an awful amount of attention to IndyRef 1, but I don’t recall border issues being so critical as they are now with Brexit. In 2014 the UK’s departure from the EU was not on the immediate political horizon. I certainly don’t recollect the government saying any such thing – as the executive of the entire United Kingdom it would have been outrageous to have done so – so any threats to erect a physical barrier were both unofficial and stupid. Unattributed remarks are rarely reliable and it’s easy to see how these things can get misrepresented by those who have an axe to grind.

If the UK leaves the EU, and if Scotland then left the UK and applied to join the EU [as the SNP wishes to do], it would be the EU that would require a hard border to protect its single market, but the particular conditions that apply in Northern Ireland in order to avoid having a hard border would possibly not prevail at the Scotland-England border.

Under Brexit, the UK government has conceded to having a border in the Irish Sea although that is opposed by the DUP. There is no such barrier between England and Scotland and border posts would presumably be required to control movements and customs arrangements by land, sea and air. Whether England & Wales would wish to restrict trade and movements with Scotland is an unknown quantity but Scotland might have no choice but to establish and maintain strong controls to prevent the illegal importation of goods into the EU.

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Duncan – thanks for that PDF. Curiously, it does not confirm your blanket statement that “in the USA smart meter installation is compulsory” but it does infer that, in some places, some utilities may be forcing smart meters onto consumers.

Also, neither this website:-https://www.the-ambient.com/guides/us-smart-meters-explained-799 nor this one:-https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=108&t=3 provides any mention of smart meters being compulsory in the USA.

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I have seen no reports that smart meters are compulsoty in the USA. As far as I know their use is subject to state, not national, regulations and legislation, and this varies state to state. Could be wrong 🙁

For example https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=34012

“Residential smart meter penetration rates vary widely by state. Washington, DC, has the highest AMI penetration rate at 97%, followed by Nevada at 96%. Six other states had a residential AMI penetration rate higher than 80% in 2016: Maine, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, California, and Vermont. In 2016, Texas added the most residential AMI meters of any state, installing smart meters on more than 200,000 customer accounts.

Differences in smart meter penetration rates are often driven by state legislation and regulation, as some states require that regulators approve utilities’ cost recovery mechanisms for metering projects.

However, I am not sure why the USA is brought into this topic – as it is in some others.

I agree with your last comment, Malcolm. Foreign comparisons only serve to confuse UK consumers and build up false expectations. No two countries have identical conditions, laws and practices.

I disagree, and believe that we can learn a great deal from foreign successes and failures, just as we can learn from trials in parts of the UK. I’m following what’s happening elsewhere on genetically manipulated food.

I think we should be finding out more about the ways that supposedly reputable companies outsource manufacturing to countries where ethical and environmental standards can be poor and quality control possibly inadequate to meet safety and other standards that we demand.

Yes there are differences regarding laws and practices but I don’t think anything is to be gained by adopting an insular approach.

I agree with you in respect of learning from other countries’ experience in a disciplined and fully-informed way, but random comments about what happens in one other country are not necessarily the best guide. We might, with a less restricted approach, have discovered that things were done better in France or Australia, for example.

I agree about that, John. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that it’s difficult for those of us dependent on what we read in the news or on websites to be anything like fully informed.

I am keen on pilot studies. For example, it was decided that display of food hygiene reviews should be mandatory in Wales, although this is not the case in Northern Ireland or Scotland. Scotland decided to provide free university education for students. Northern Ireland, we have learned, has not been involved in the roll-out of smart meters. When they do, they should be able to avoid blunders such as supplying ones that may not work if you switch energy supplier, and maybe it could be done by incentive such as being able to sign-up to variable rate tariffs rather than eventually succumbing to childish advertising.

When we look for information online, we are directed to local information, so a Google search provides links to websites for and reviews about restaurants in town. That’s handy because living where I do, I’m not usually interested in restaurants in London and Norwich, and it’s not difficult to adapt my search accordingly before planning a visit.

When looking for information relevant to consumer issues it might be helpful not just to look at what’s happening in the UK. Information relating to the US can be particularly difficult to assimilate because of different legislation according to states.

In other news, I heard yesterday that EDF is to take on customers of collapsed energy firm Toto, see:-https://www.energyvoice.com/other-news/210668/edf-to-take-on-customers-of-collapsed-energy-firm-toto/

Customers of Toto will retain their energy supplies and hopefully the transition to EDF will be smooth. They will be entitled to move to another supplier if they wish without any charges.

Unfortunately, each time an energy supplier goes bust there are costs that are shared by all energy customers. Ofgem did declare that it would look at the viability of small energy suppliers before they were allowed to take on customers, but companies are still failing.

While I am very glad that customers have choices, surely it’s time to properly assess the fitness of energy companies to provide a service.

Ofgem introduced more stringent tests for new entrants to the energy supply market some while ago. More recently, they have also introduced better scrutiny of existing suppliers, particularly, but not only, in the area of financial fitness. This was reported here some days ago. The link to the Ofgem proposal is https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications-and-updates/ofgem-proposes-new-financial-checks-and-tests-existing-suppliers

Thanks Malcolm. I was just about to add that link to my post.

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Well, we certainly don’t want any compulsion in this country. I am concerned that with the smart meter programme running very badly behind target there could be a move to penalise consumers who refuse to have them installed where it is technically feasible to do so by putting them on a higher tariff. I don’t trust Which? to object to such a move.

I think this is happening already with British Gas. Our fixed tariff is about to end and we can save a lot more if we get a smart meter installed. BG have identified we can’t currently have one because of the weak/no signal.

We have read and entered our own meter readings for a long time now. Online, there were very helpful history graphs that are now denied to us because we don’t have a smart meter.

Duncan are you really sure that is true? Can you post a url as confirmation?

Ovo has announced: “From now on, you’ll see energy charges applied to your balance based on the reading we get from your smart meter every day. With up-to-date billing you now get a clearer idea of how much your energy use has cost.”

Prior to this, daily use of electricity and gas was available online but now the account balance is updated daily too. What will really convince me of the benefit of smart meters is being able to buy energy when it is cheaper.

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Duncan, from further searching I have now seen evidence of smart meters being compulsory in Pennsylvania and evidence of around 24 states where consumers can opt out of smart meters.

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Thanks Duncan – that page is a useful summary of the complicated position in the USA.

I wasn’t ready to believe that smart meters would have been universally compulsory in the “land of the free” but it turns out they are in some states there.

In a land where “I want and can pay” usually means “I can have” that obviously leads to discontent and even civil unrest, as evidenced by some folk going to jail, as you said.

In the the example I saw, folk were charged with “obstructing the police” who had been sent to protect the smart meter installers.

I agree, it is an interesting report duncan.

The advantage of smart meters is to obtain a better analysis of usage to help a “smarter” generation and distribution system, to enable time-related charging, to enable selective disconnection, for example. If the real uses of smart meters had been publicised I suspect many people would now be less unhappy than at being hoodwinked by the childish (and expensive) Leccy and Gaz adverts.

Smart meters will not save consumers significant money as persistently stated (but in reducing amounts) but some charlatans seemed to think this was the way to persuade people an £11 billion rollout, using customers money, was cost-effective. They’d also be less unhappy if the rollout had not been (expensively and incompetently) bungled with most meters unable to cope with switching suppliers – something we are encouraged to do.

I sincerely hope that selective disconnection will be applied in this country and if it is necessary it would probably be done by rationing.

It would allow vulnerable people to remain connected when a more general (temporary) load shedding proved necessary, as I understand it.

Power cuts can happen at any time and provision needs to be made by them or for them. Medical equipment can run on batteries.

Medical equipment can run on batteries.” But some only for a limited time. Vulnerable people also need warmth – so the central heating stops with no circulatory pump or supply to control the boiler, no fan heater….. So without our standby generator we cannot make provision.

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Well, just one view. I’ve no idea about the validity of any poll without lots of other information, and therefore not this one. However, for what it is worth it gives a contrasting view. In essence “overall, most English voters would rather keep the union together if it were up to them – though they recognise it isn’t up to them.“.

”Which? calculates that a medium user (using 12,000kWh gas and 2,900kWh electricity per year) on a dual-fuel default or tariff standard tariff at the level of the current price cap could save up to £255 by switching to the cheapest deal on the market.
https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-response-to-the-price-cap-announcement/

Competition will produce a variety of cost differences between energy providers depending, for example, on where they buy their energy, there futures policy, their size and business efficiency. There will also be a difference between someone committing to a fixed term contract and one on a totally flexible one and I take advantage of this by switching.

However I think it wrong that in such a markets there should be such big discrepancies in what is charged for two essential and basic commodities. Which? press release says that for a medium user, in effect one sticky consumer on a standard variable tariff can pay over 32% (£1042/£787) more for their energy than someone who picks a fixed term tariff, something that requires fairly little effort.

I’d have thought we should be campaigning for fairer pricing, and not using SVRs to subsidise the cheap deals.