Martin Lewis: Compare before paying Big 6 prices

The energy providers have taken the opportunity when we're thinking about better weather to hike their prices for gas and electricity, so now would be a good time to switch. Picture: Getty
The energy providers have taken the opportunity when we're thinking about better weather to hike their prices for gas and electricity, so now would be a good time to switch. Picture: Getty
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Spring has sprung. The weather’s warming up, and the last thing on anyone’s mind are energy bills. That means the energy firms have got you just where they want you – it’s the perfect opportunity for them to pump up prices, and they’re doing just that.

The only way to stop this is to get up off your backside and take them on. We live in a world where the do-somethings get far cheaper prices than the do-nothings. So it’s time to do something. Someone with typical bills on a bog standard tariff right now can easily save more than £300 a year.

So what price hikes are happening? 

1. British Gas: The first big announcement was from British Gas – it’s putting up both gas and electricity prices for those on its standard tariff by an average 5.5 per cent on 29 May. This is equivalent to around £60 added on top of a typical annual bill. 

2. EDF: On the tails of British Gas’ announcement, EDF snuck in to say it’d increase its standard price on electricity by 2.7 per cent (gas prices won’t change) on 7 June, equivalent to around £16 on a typical annual bill. 

3. Eon: This is what I call a backdoor price hike, not announced like the others, because its energy rates won’t change, but none the less what it is doing increases your price. On 19 April, it ditched some “dual fuel” (ie, gas & electric) discounts and upped some standing charges – equivalent to an average rise of £22 per year.

So that’s three who’ve announced at the time of writing, yet energy firms often bleat like sheep and follow the herd, especially when British Gas leads. So by the time you read this, more may have announced hikes.

It’s not quite definite this time though, because even after this rise, British Gas’ standard tariff isn’t quite the most expensive. Yet as British Gas has faced the full flak, I suspect the others know if they sneak in soon they’ll get less of a hit.

It’s no secret that British Gas and all the other big 6 providers aren’t cheap. In fact if you’re sitting on their standard tariff, frankly you’re being ripped off, and with typical bills could cut the costs from around £1,140 to a little over £765 for the same usage a saving of £375 – with higher usage this can be even larger. 

Switching energy supplier is not complicated. In fact it only takes minutes to find your cheapest deal and then you can switch in as little as 17 days. Those who worry about switching, don’t – it’s the same pipes, gas, meter, safety and you don’t lose supply. The only difference is price and customer service. And there’s no break in supply when you do switch.

As your cheapest depends on where you live and what you use, there’s no one winner. So just plug your details into my www.cheapenergyclub.com or any other www.ofgem.gov.uk approved comparison site and it’ll give the best deal for you.

But be careful, not all comparison sites are equal – they are now allowed to hide deals that don’t pay them, and many do just that (for the sake of transparency my Cheap Energy Club always defaults to the whole of market).

It’s best if you have your bills to hand to do this, but even if not, most comparison sites will estimate for you and the sin of inaccuracy isn’t as big as the sin of doing nothing.

Those who aren’t online can call up some comparison sites too (or ask friends who are more web savvy to help them). Don’t be afraid to scroll down.

The huge amount of new entrants to the energy market is actually putting many off switching. And to an extent there’s good reason for this. The energy market is swamped with new firms, and often at launch they offer super-cheap deals to build a customer base; yet feedback is limited or poor.

If that worries you, simply SCROLL DOWN the comparison site results to firms you’ve heard of or one which has a good customer service feedback rating. Often you can scroll through 10 or 20 providers and find the price isn’t that much more than the very cheapest.

Of course there are some vulnerable customers who, rather than being apathetic, are unable to switch due to confusion, lack of online access or fear.

The flaccid current “vulnerable customer” price cap only reduces their costs by a 
relatively trivial £70. This means disgracefully, a wealthy, savvy man like me still pays far less to boil a kettle than a struggling 90-year-old grandmother.

Yet for those who can switch but just don’t want to, there is another route. I often get questions like: “I’m with E.on – is it cheap?” I can’t answer that, as what you pay depends on which of a firm’s tariffs you are on. E.on, for example, has one of the most expensive standard tariffs at a typical £1,153 per year, yet it also offers a relatively cheap fix at £984 per year.

In fact every Big Six provider has a cheaper deal than its standard tariff – so through gritted teeth let me say, if you won’t switch as you’re loyal to your existing firm, at least ensure you’re on its cheapest tariff. Call them up and ask them.

And finally, too many have to choose between heating and eating. So make sure you’re on the cheapest tariff, but if that isn’t enough visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call them in Scotland on 08088082282 to see what help is available to you. 

Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySaving
Expert.com. To join the 13 
million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip.