Comment: Energy bills savings really switch me on

Stats from GoCompare.com show that just 18 per cent of households  bothered to switch to a cheaper deal in 2014. Picture: John Devlin

Stats from GoCompare.com show that just 18 per cent of households bothered to switch to a cheaper deal in 2014. Picture: John Devlin

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IT was the easiest £250 I’ve ever earned. It took me less than two minutes – which is, my mental calculations estimate, a rate of £7,500 an hour. Definitely slightly above what I usually make.

To be fair, it was a one-off. Though, it was a such an easy, addictive way to make money that I want to do it every day. Of course, it wouldn’t be quite so lucrative the second time.

I’m not talking about some kind of destructive gambling habit. I’m talking about switching my energy supplier.

As consumer affairs correspondent at this paper, I’ve written no fewer than 18 stories in the past 12 months alone which include some reference to how important it is for consumers to switch. How energy companies should do more to make it easier for people to switch. How householders are paying X gazillion pounds over the odds every year because they HAVEN’T SWITCHED. Idiots.

Recent stats from comparison site GoCompare.com show that just 18 per cent of households actually bothered to switch to a cheaper deal in 2014.

But…um…well, I now feel the need to confess that until this week, I was one of the many rather than the few. I had not switched. Ever. Bad consumer affairs correspondent.

Bar accidentally swapping suppliers a few times over the years when I moved into a new flat – “Oh, the old tenants were with Scottish Gas? Brilliant, I’m sure they knew what they were doing. I’ll just stick with them too,” – I found the idea of even looking properly at my gas and electricity bills a bit much for my brain to compute.

I felt overwhelmed by talk of kilowatt hours and estimated meter readings and amounts paid by direct debit that were supposed to be the same every month, averaged out over the year, but just somehow just weren’t.

This week, after spending most of the week writing about falling gas prices and how the companies haven’t really passed on the savings to customers as well as they should, something inside me flipped.

Four of the Big Six have now reduced their gas bills in the wake of plummeting wholesale gas costs – but by what are, really, miniscule amounts – 3.5 per cent to 5.1 per cent depending on the firm – compared to the near-20 per cent reductions they have seen in what they are paying to their own suppliers. Yes, they have costs to cover – administration and so on – and fair enough, they need to make a profit, but even taking that into account, it is not good enough.

Why was I forking out more than I needed to to these energy giants, these enormous companies which have become as unpopular as the banks, supermarkets and even estate agents due to their failure to pass on savings at a time when their profits are shooting ever upward?

In a fit of pique, on Wednesday night I dug out my annual energy use summary from a sloppy pile of unfiled papers in the spare room, grabbed the iPad and picked a comparison site at random.

At risk of sounding like a bad advert for uSwitch, shot in the style of a washing up liquid commercial, it turned out to be the easiest thing I’d done all day. Within seconds, I had in front of me a list of dozens of energy deals which were infinitely cheaper than the one I currently have.

I chose, as any sensible person would, the cheapest one, saving me a massive £250.07 a year on my current deal.

I was – and I suppose, technically still am for the next couple of weeks until the switching process is completed – a customer of one of the Big Six firms. I won’t tell you which one to spare their blushes.

But I am now a proud, signed- up subscriber to Ovo Energy, the fastest-growing smaller company in the market. It has topped tables for customer service and definitely scores well on price.

I just have to remember to send out my final meter readings and then I’ll be officially classed as one of the 18 per cent of people who have switched – and proud.

I am a convert. Join me. We are the 18. Maybe I’ll get myself a badge or a bumper sticker.

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