Energy giants locked in power struggle over fixed-price bills

Energy suppliers are freezing prices with new deals.  Picture: PA

Energy suppliers are freezing prices with new deals. Picture: PA

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MAJOR energy companies are battling it out to win customers keen to set the price of their energy bills – led by a new fixed-price deal by nPower which will see tariffs set for the next three winters.

The firm’s nPower Price Fix September 2016 offers the longest price protection on the market – with the fix not expiring until 30 September, 2016 – but it also has no exit penalties, putting it in direct competition with EDF Energy’s popular Blue + Price Promise.

Experts said the latest announcement boosted competition among the Big Six energy companies – with fixed tariffs now ranging from a year to over three years long. However, as the fixed price period gets longer, the price is creeping upwards.

Householders have been battling with spiralling utility prices in recent years. Research from the Debt Advisory Centre Scotland found that one in four Scottish households has ignored utility bills because they could not afford to pay them.

The new fixed tariff from nPower costs £1,317 a year – £16 a year more than ScottishPower’s Fixed Price Energy February 2016 and £125 a year more than EDF Energy’s Blue + Price Promise February 2015.

The cheapest variable priced tariff on the market is Spark Energy’s Advance plan, which costs £1,041 a year, but which requires customers to pay upfront for their energy use. It comes in at £276 a year cheaper than nPower’s new fixed-price tariff, but does not come with any pricing guarantees.

Tom Lyon, energy expert at uSwitch.com, said: “It looks like suppliers are on the verge of an all-out fixed-price war and this spells very good news for consumers looking for shelter from potential price hikes. nPower’s new plan is a double whammy as it not only offers the longest price protection on the market, but it also doesn’t carry any early exit penalties.

“This will definitely give rivals a bloody nose and lowers the risk to consumers of locking in for such a long time.

“As ever, consumers always have to weigh up their options and the fact is that there are some cheaper options available if you are prepared to take a chance with price hikes.”

Clare Francis, editor-in-chief at MoneySupermarket.com, said: “Anyone looking to fix their energy tariff, and have the comfort of knowing how much they will be paying for their gas and electricity for the next three winters, could strike while the iron is hot with this new tariff from energy giant nPower.”

However, although the new longer-term fixed-price tariffs – which require customers to pay by direct debit – are now carrying a premium for the protection they offer, they are still cheaper than suppliers’ standard tariffs for customers who are paying by cash or cheque.

“We firmly believe that offering a small and clearly defined range of products is the right thing to do, as the industry moves towards tariff simplification,” said Roger Hattam, director of npower’s domestic retail business.

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