James Walker: Throw switch to restore power over energy bills

The way energy costs are calculated is complicated.
The way energy costs are calculated is complicated.
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Every time an energy company raises its prices, my phone starts ringing off the hook. I tend to get the same questions from people, largely around why prices are rising when costs are going down (still no clear answers to that one). But lately I’ve noticed that I’m being asked more about switching providers – and specifically, why more people aren’t doing this.

Though the number of people switching energy companies is increasing, the fact remains that millions of us aren’t budging. When I ask people why, the answer I get is usually, “What’s the point, they’re all the same?” – followed by, “It’s far too complicated and I don’t have the time/energy.”

I understand this. The way energy costs are calculated is fiendishly complicated, so it’s really hard to know if you’re getting a good deal or not. But honestly, switching isn’t as hard as you think – and there’s loads of free advice out there. Here are a few tips:

Avoid comparison sites as they don’t always show all the best deals. Plus, you’ll sometimes find that you get tons of calls from random companies trying to flog you things. While I can’t explain the complexities of how the energy market works, there’s tons of information on MoneySavingExpert’s website on how to get a good deal, so you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. You could save a whopping £300 a year.

The most important thing is to think about is how often you’re using energy during peak times. And be realistic about being tied down to longer term contracts. Yes, you’ll pay less, but you might be stuck on a bad deal. Another key thing to do – and I’m stating the obvious here – is to send a meter reading. If we’re being honest, we all hate doing this, as there’s a fair chance your bill will shoot up if the estimates are off. But better to know what you owe than to bury your head in the sand. And the firm might offer you a better rate to stay.

And it’s not just energy providers you should switch. Staying loyal to your bank won’t get you any benefits. Others are offering better interest, services and cash for switching to them – there’s loads of good deals on at the moment. Don’t just go for the free cash. Look at interest rates if you’re having your wages paid into your account. And when it comes to switching, the new rules mean that the banks have seven working days to swap you over along with all your regular payments.

Don’t forget to review your insurance providers too. General insurance is a yearly contract and often goes up on renewal. The insurer has to let you know about the new contract in advance but those letters are easy to overlook. So stick the date the contract ends in your diary and make sure that you don’t get automatically signed up for another year with the same insurer. Beware leaving an insurance contract early though, as you’ll have to pay a fee for doing so and it can sometimes be quite weighty.

Searching around on the internet for a good deal can be daunting. And as I mentioned before, comparison sites don’t always show the best deals. So one of the best things you can do is speak to friends and families about the businesses they use – and what good or bad experiences they’ve had. Peer recommendations really are the most reliable.

And remember – if something goes wrong, Resolver can help.