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Energy price cap guide: how will the price cap affect customers in 2019?

Energy price cap guide: how will the price cap affect customers in 2019?

The energy price cap affecting standard variable, or 'default', energy tariffs came into force on 1 January 2019, when it was met with plenty of criticism.

But what is it and how does it work? Find out everything you need to know about the energy tariff cap — including whether this default tariff cap will help or hurt your bills — right here.

Lock in a fixed energy deal today

Although energy prices are due to fall slightly in October, you can save more by switching to a fixed deal today. Enter your postcode below to get started.

What is the default tariff cap?

The default tariff cap (also known as the safeguard tariff) is a limit on the unit rate and standing charge that energy suppliers can charge for standard variable - or ‘default’ - tariffs, and is set by Ofgem, the energy regulator.

This is only a cap on what suppliers can charge for standard tariffs, however; it does not ‘lock’ rates, and is therefore subject to a price rise or cut pending review by Ofgem.

The current default tariff cap is set at £1,254 per year (for the typical dual fuel customer paying by direct debit) on standard variable rate tariffs, but will change to £1,179 from 1 October 2019.

Standard variable tariffs are usually the most expensive rates that a customer can be on. If a customer hasn’t switched energy before, or has rolled off a fixed energy deal, they are likely to be on a default tariff.

How much can you save compared to the new energy price cap level?

The energy price cap can save customers money, but not as much as they could save by switching themselves. Our map shows the difference between the cheapest deals and the new price cap level by region so you can see for yourself.

price-cap-map-amended

Source: uSwitch data. Savings figures represent difference in each energy region between credit meter SVT cap from 1/10/19 and cheapest deal as at 7/8/19. Assumes households with medium annual consumption paying by monthly direct debit.

How does the price cap affect prepayment customers?

The price cap affects the four million prepayment customers in the UK in the same way that it affects customers on standard variable tariffs. There is a separate cap for prepayment tariffs, which is reviewed independently of the SVT cap by Ofgem. Currently, the prepayment cap is £1,242, but it will be lowered to £1,217 on 1 October 2019.

Cheapest prepayment energy plans from uSwitch

Supplier Plan name Price
Bulb Vari-Fair £1060 Compare now
Boost Traditional PAYG £1213 Compare now
Boost Smart PAYG energy (all Online) £1213 Compare now
SSE Standard Pay As You Go £1215 Compare now
npower Prepayment £1216 Compare now
E.ON E.ON Energy Plan with Prepayment £1216 Compare now
EDF Energy Standard (Variable) Prepayment £1216 Compare now
ScottishPower Standard. £1216 Compare now
EDF Energy Prepay Total Service Nov20 £1224 Compare now
Spark Energy Get Swift £1241 Compare now

Based on average bill sizes for a medium energy user on a dual fuel prepayment plan, and averaged across all regions. This information is updated hourly with energy plans which are available to switch to through uSwitch. To appear in this table, plans must be available in at least 7 of the 14 regions.

Why is the energy price cap controversial?

There are a few reasons why the energy price cap has come under fire from energy experts:

Better savings can be found by switching — At the time of the price cap announcement, the £1,179 yearly cost was still over £300 more than the cheapest energy deal on the market.

A cap hurts competition — Introducing a cap does not encourage suppliers to compete for business by offering better tariffs or improving customer service. There is no pressure on energy companies to innovate if customers believe they are ‘safeguarded’ from high costs and less likely to take their business elsewhere.

False sense of security — The cap can still go up (or down) as energy prices will always be subject to wholesale costs, distribution costs and other factors. The concern is that consumers will assume the price cap means they are protected from fluctuating costs by the Government’s cap.

We explain more in our Energy Price Cap Mythbuster video. Watch it now to find out why it doesn't necessarily protect consumers from paying too much for their energy.

  • Read the transcript

    Hi! You’re probably aware of the energy price cap, which was introduced to stop energy suppliers from overcharging customers on default or standard variable tariffs. The cap limits the rates that suppliers can charge per unit of gas and electricity on these plans.

    But if you think you know all there is to know about the price cap, you might be wrong. There are some common misconceptions about the price cap that could mean you’re paying too much for your energy bills.

    Myth 1: My energy bills won’t exceed the amount set by the price cap.

    FALSE.

    People talk about the price cap level using average figures, but the amount you pay depends on how much energy you use and where you live. Remember, this is a cap on unit rates, not your actual bill - the more energy you use, the higher the costs will be.

    Myth 2: The price cap will stay the same for at least a year, meaning my costs will too.

    FALSE.

    Ofgem, the energy market regulator, reviews the cap twice a year. The level of the cap can go up or down at these times.

    If the cap rises, the cost of standard variable tariffs will rise too. But even if the cap drops, a good-value fixed deal is still likely to be cheaper.

    Myth 3: I’m on a good deal if I’m paying a lower price than the price cap level.

    FALSE-ISH.

    You might be paying less than the price cap level, but it’s likely there’s a cheaper deal out there that can help you lock in your energy prices for a year or more.

    The price cap doesn’t guarantee you’re on a good-value energy tariff. The only reliable way of doing that is to look for cheaper deals on uSwitch. Why not get started now?

Should capping energy prices influence my decision to switch?

In a word, no.

You should always compare your current energy deal using a price comparison site like uSwitch to understand whether you could be paying less or getting better service by moving elsewhere.

A price cap only applies to you if you’re on a standard variable rate tariff. These tariffs are already some of the most expensive on the market, so it’s likely you could save by at least switching your energy tariff, if you’re not keen on switching suppliers.

Lock in a fixed energy deal today

Although energy prices are due to fall slightly in October, you can save more by switching to a fixed deal today. Enter your postcode below to get started.

And remember, the cap doesn’t protect you from price changes. Ofgem may raise or lower the cap per the wholesale market. So, when comparing energy deals, consider a fixed rate plan to secure your rates for a year or more and protect yourself from potential price increases.

Cheapest fixed plans now available through uSwitch

Supplier Plan name Price
npower Select npower Select uSwitch Exclusive v17 Smart £942 Compare now
Green Network Energy GNE Summer Saver V6 £956 Compare now
Avro Energy Simple and uPremier £956 Compare now
ScottishPower Super Saver September 2020 B3 £961 Compare now
EDF Energy Simply Online Apr21v5 £962 Compare now
EDF Energy Simply Online 1 Year Fix Oct20v3 £962 Compare now
Lumo Online Fixed v31 £968 Compare now
npower Select npower Select uSwitch Exclusive v17 £974 Compare now
British Gas Energy Plus Protection Green Oct 2020 £983 Compare now
Tonik Energy Go Green (1 Year) v19 £983 Compare now

Based on average bill sizes for a medium energy user on a dual fuel plan paying by monthly direct debit, and averaged across all regions. This information is updated hourly with energy plans which are available to switch to through uSwitch. To appear in this table, plans must be available in at least 7 of the 14 regions.

How is the price cap set?

The price cap is set by Ofgem, the regulator for the energy industry.

The methodology for Ofgem creating a cap level factors in a range of costs, such as the wholesale cost of energy, network costs, policy costs, operating costs and prepayment meter costs.

Ofgem has committed to reviewing the level of the energy price cap twice a year, effective from 1 April and again from 1 October.

How has the price cap level changed?

The price cap was confirmed by Ofgem in September 2018 at an initial cap of £1,136, with a commitment to review the cap level based on any changes in the wider market in April and October each year.

The cap didn’t actually come into force until 1 January 2019, by which time it had been revised by a pound to £1,137. It was then reviewed and an announcement was made on 7 February 2019 that the cap would be raised to £1,254, effective on 1 April.

The price cap level was next reviewed in August 2019, and lowered by £75 (due to come into force on 1 October 2019) as a response to falling wholesale costs across the continent. This meant that standard variable tariff customers using the average amount of energy and paying by direct debit could expect to pay £1,179 across the course of the year.

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