Author Archives: Claire Osborne

About Claire Osborne

Claire has worked in the energy industry for eight years in roles focused on bringing the best deals to consumers, both online and offline. Claire has developed her passion for data and applies her insight and analysis to modernising the energy industry - making the industry more dynamic, innovative and responsive to customer needs. This data-driven approach is combined with an unbeatable knowledge of the current energy market, tariffs and new suppliers.

uSwitch comments on E.ON residential standard energy price freeze

solar-panel-renewable-sustainable-energy-230x230

Commenting on today’s announcement from E.ON that it will freeze standard residential energy prices until at least April 2017, Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “Standard variable tariff price freezes may look good on paper, but in reality could lull consumers into a false sense of security. The fact remains that consumers on standard deals could be overpaying for their energy by an eye-watering £200 a year. These customers should switch to a competitive fixed rate tariff, which also gives protection for longer against any future price rises.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

uSwitch comments on British Gas energy price freeze

thermostat-elderly-fuel-poverty-energy

Commenting on today’s announcement from British Gas that it will freeze standard household energy prices until the end of March 2017, Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “Today’s announcement from British Gas will be welcome news for standard variable plan customers, who will have peace of mind as we head into what could be one of the coldest winters for years.

“Following SSE’s commitment to freeze its standard variable tariff until April next year, pressure will now be mounting on the other four big suppliers to follow suit.

“Despite the freeze, British Gas’ standard variable plan is a long way from being competitive. Although it is the lowest of the big six at £1,044 a year, it’s still £182 more expensive than the best deal on the market. Customers should shop around and look to switch to a cheaper fixed rate tariff, which will also protect against any future price rises for longer.

“Rising wholesale energy prices aren’t going away. Despite price freezes this winter, it’s looking increasingly likely that suppliers may be set to hike prices later in 2017 – bringing bad news for many consumers.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

uSwitch comments as Co-operative Energy takes on GB Energy customers

shutterstock_125973737

Ofgem has chosen Co-operative Energy to take on supplying GB Energy Supply’s customers. Commenting on the news, Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s good news for GB Energy Supply customers that Ofgem has appointed a new supplier so quickly. It’s also reassuring for customers that Co-operative Energy will honour all outstanding credit balances and keep them on the same prices.

“But GB Energy customers shouldn’t assume that their new tariff will be the most competitive. Last month GB Energy hiked its standard variable plan by 30% to £1,060 so it is now £198 a year more expensive than the cheapest plan on the market. As soon as these customers have been contacted by Co-operative Energy they should shop around to see if they can find a better deal.

“Consumers may also be raising eyebrows about the appointment of Co-operative Energy, given it agreed with Ofgem to pay a £1.8 million settlement last month for a series of customer service failings. Co-operative Energy must handle the transfer of its new customers quickly and efficiently, so they don’t face any additional headaches.

“In future, to reduce the risk of a supplier going out of business, Ofgem should scrutinise suppliers’ business models more closely as part of its market monitoring.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

New figures show energy suppliers improving on customer satisfaction

winter-season-power-lines-energy-230x230

Customer satisfaction with energy suppliers has risen to record highs, according to the 11th annual uSwitch.com Energy Customer Satisfaction Report of over 5,000 consumers.

  • Average customer satisfaction with the UK’s eight largest energy suppliers has risen by three points since last year to 78%
  • Ovo Energy sweeps the board for the third consecutive year, with an overall satisfaction rating of 96% – the highest in the report’s 11-year history
  • Collectively, big six suppliers continue to improve levels of customer satisfaction, up an average of four points to 74% – the highest ever recorded
  • E.ON is Large Supplier of the Year for the fifth year running, with a customer satisfaction score of 79%
  • Although npower comes in last place for the ninth consecutive year, its ratings soar ten points to 67% making it by far the most improved supplier
  • 84% of Ovo and First Utility customers would recommend their supplier, compared with just 57% of big six customers
  • 89% of Ovo and First Utility customers are satisfied with the value for money they receive, compared with 63% of those with the big six.

The 2017 report from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service, ranks Britain’s big six suppliers and the two largest independent providers, based on a survey of over 5,000 energy customers. Ovo Energy retains pole position for the third year in a row, winning 11 out of 12 award categories including customer service, billing and value for money, securing a 96% overall satisfaction rating – the highest in the report’s 11-year history. Rival provider First Utility comes in second place with a score of 87%.

Big six supplier E.ON comes in third and top of the big six for the fifth year in a row with a 79% rating, up three points from last year. By contrast, npower’s rating of 67% sees it in last place for the ninth consecutive year. However, it is by far the most improved supplier, going up an impressive ten points – suggesting that the provider’s efforts to turn the company around are paying off.

Table: Overall customer satisfaction

Rank Energy supplier Overall customer satisfaction score Change
1 OVO Energy 96% +3%
2 First Utility 87% +1%
3 E.ON 79% +3%
4 EDF Energy 78% +3%
5 SSE 76% +2%
6 British Gas 75% +1%
7 ScottishPower 69% +3%
8 npower 67% +10%

Source: uSwitch.com Energy Customer Satisfaction Report 2017

ScottishPower remains in second to last place, but has managed to increase its rating for three years in a row. Elsewhere, SSE narrowly regains fifth place from British Gas – which it lost to its rival last year – but is three points behind EDF Energy, which improved its rating to come just one point short of E.ON.

The latest results also reveal a continuing gulf in customer satisfaction between the country’s two largest independent providers and the big six. Over eight in ten (84%) of Ovo and First Utility customers would recommend their supplier and 89% say they get value for money, compared with just 57% and 63%, respectively, of big six customers. As more big six consumers remain stuck on expensive, standard variable tariffs, the results suggest the largest suppliers need to do more to help encourage their customers to switch to better tariffs.

This year also saw further increases in satisfaction with the energy switching process among consumers, suggesting that measures to reduce the time it takes to switch are proving to be a continuing success.

Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “Customer satisfaction with energy suppliers is rising, but the biggest independent providers continue to set the bar ever higher and higher. It’s encouraging to see the big six continue improving, but they’ll need to up their game even further to catch up with the competition.

“It’s time for all of us to play our part, as there’s no excuse for putting up with bad service or uncompetitive deals. If you’re unhappy, shop around for something better, especially as there’s over £200 a year difference between the cheapest deal on the market and the average big six tariff.”

The following 2017 Customer Satisfaction Awards have been made to suppliers:

Ovo Energy – best for: Overall Customer Satisfaction, Most Likely to be Recommended, Value for Money, Best Deal for You, Customer Service, Billing Services, Energy Efficiency, Meter Services, Online Services, Green Services and Transfer Process

E.ON – best for: Reward Schemes

Energy supplier comments

E.ON

David Bird, Managing Director Residential, E.ON UK says: “We’re delighted to have been voted best of the larger suppliers for customer satisfaction for the fifth year running.  This success is testament to all our colleagues who have helped us provide a high level of service which is valued by our customers. I’m very proud that E.ON has continued to make significant improvements, this year not only increasing our score for overall satisfaction, but also increasing our rankings for both meter reading and energy efficiency. Our customers are our number one priority, which is why we remain committed to offering excellent service, competitive products and energy solutions that will help them save energy and pay less, making improvements that really matter to them.”

British Gas

Sarwjit Sambhi, Managing Director of UK Home at British Gas, says: “We’re pleased that our customers are seeing the benefits of the improvements we’ve made to our customer service, and our overall customer satisfaction scores have increased. Our customers are at the heart of what we do at British Gas, and we will continue to listen to them so we can further improve the service we offer.”

First Utility

Ed Kamm, UK MD, First Utility says: “We’re delighted to see our customers continue to score us highly, recognising the efforts we make to deliver great service. Our mission is to provide customers with fair, great-value energy alongside great customer service. uSwitch’s latest survey suggests we’re on the right track.”

ScottishPower

Colin McNeill, Retail Director at ScottishPower, says: “It is good to see we’re continuing to make solid progress. We are working hard to keep making service improvements and developing new products to look after our existing customers.”

SSE

Will Morris, Group Managing Director for Retail, says: “Customer service has always been one of SSE’s key priorities and we’re very happy to see that our score has improved once again. But to climb up the rankings we need to improve faster than our competitors. We have a strong track record of delivering on customer service but we know there is always more to be done.

“That’s why we’ve committed to a range of new initiatives to step up our service including increasing the number of SSE customer service advisers, provide more support and advice to customers falling into debt and working with customers to test and rate our service with mystery shopping. We are also the first energy supplier to commit to working with the BSI to make our processes more flexible; helping us identify customers who might need a little extra help and adapt our service to meet their individual needs.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Survey conducted by YouGov between 27th October to 1st November 2016 among 5,028 UK energy consumers (aged 18+). Customers were asked their opinions on a wide range of issues relating to satisfaction with their energy suppliers. The figures have been weighted.

Only suppliers with a sample of 150 customers or higher in the survey are included: British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, First Utility, npower, Ovo Energy, ScottishPower and SSE. All calculations have been done by uSwitch.

Customers with two suppliers were asked to provide their level of satisfaction with their supplier separately for gas and electricity, dual fuel customers were only asked to rate their supplier once. The customer satisfaction scores were then calculated as follows (“Supplier A” used as an illustrative example). Sum the total number of gas and electricity customers who were very or fairly satisfied with the service provided to them by Supplier A, then divide by the total number of Supplier A’s gas and electricity customers who answered the question. A Dual Fuel response is classed as both a gas and an electricity response.

Reference to satisfied customers includes only those who responded positively that they were very satisfied or fairly satisfied. Satisfaction ratings and rankings in tables are determined only by the percentage of satisfied respondents.

Comparisons to 12 months ago refer to YouGov survey of 5,138 consumers undertaken between 10th October and 4th November 2015. The figures have been weighted.

In the press release, percentages have been rounded to the nearest percentage point.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

More energy price hikes as rising wholesale costs continue to bite

money-cash-economy-230x230
  • Five out of the big six energy suppliers have increased the price of their most competitive fixed rate tariffs by an average of £129 or 16% since September[1]
  • E.ON has upped fixed deals the most, hiking its cheapest plan by an eye-watering 35% or £255 a year, from £760 to £1,015 since September[1]
  • British Gas’ cheapest tariff is unchanged at £1,044 but remains £174 more expensive than the most competitive big six deal[1]
  • OVO is the largest energy supplier so far this winter to raise standard variable prices
  • Seven small suppliers have increased standard variable prices by an average of 9%[2]
  • Widespread fixed term and variable price hikes could be likely this winter if wholesale prices continue to increase, according to uSwitch.com
  • Consumers worried about rising energy costs should shop around and switch to a fixed rate deal, to safeguard against future price rises.

Five of the big six energy suppliers have hiked the price of their cheapest tariffs by an average of 16% or £129 since September, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching site[1]. The fixed deal price rises, driven by rising wholesale costs, are joined by recent increases in standard variable tariffs by seven smaller suppliers[2].

Among the big six, E.ON has increased its cheapest fixed rate tariff the most since September – upping prices by an eye-watering 34% or £255, from £760 to £1,015 a year. SSE and ScottishPower follow closely behind, with hikes of 24% and 16% respectively on their cheapest fixed deals. SSE’s ‘1 Year Fixed’ deal has gone up from £782 to £970, while Scottish Power’s ‘Online Fixed Saver’ increased from £819 to £952. British Gas is the only big six supplier to have not raised the price of its cheapest fixed tariff, but at £1,044 it remains £174 more expensive than the most competitive big six fixed term deal, from EDF[1]. 

[1]Table 1: big six energy supplier’s cheapest deals in September 2016 and November 2016

Cheapest tariff September 2016 Cheapest tariff as of 21st  November 2016
Supplier Name Price Name Price Price increase (£) Price increase (%)
E.ON E.ON Saver Fixed 1 year v1 £760 E.ON Energy Fixed 1 Year v20 £1,015 £255 34%
npower Online Fix September 2017 £801 Online Price Fix December 2017 £897 £96 12%
EDF Simply Fixed October 2017V2 £780 Blue+Fixed Price November 2017 £870 £90 12%
SSE SSE 1 Year Fixed v8 £782 SSE 1 Year Fixed v9 £970 £188 24%
ScottishPower Online Fixed Saver November 2017 £819 Online Fixed Saver December 2017 v2 £952 £133 16%
British Gas All current British Gas Plans £1,044 All current British Gas Plans £1,044 £0 0%
Average £129 16%

Source: uSwitch.com. Prices correct as of 21st November, 2016.

OVO Energy, the country’s eighth biggest supplier, announced on Monday (21st November) that it is raising its standard variable tariff by 5% or £50 per year from 10th January 2017. Seven smaller suppliers have also recently increased the price of their standard variable tariffs: Co-operative Energy, GB Energy, Ecotricity, Octopus Energy, Flow, So Energy and Bulb raised prices by an average of 9% or £79 a year since September. The biggest price hike was from GB Energy, which raised prices by almost a third[2]. Last Friday, big six supplier SSE became the first major provider to freeze standard prices, until at least April 2017.

[2]Table 2: standard variable tariff price rises 2016

Supplier Tariff name Announcement Effective Increase Previous price New price
Co-operative Energy Pioneer 01/09/16 01/10/16 3% £1,089 £1,121
GB Energy Supply Premium Energy Saver 12/10/16 12/10/16 29% £820 £1,060
Ecotricity Green Electricity + Green Gas 24/10/16 14/11/16 6% £1,089 £1,151
Octopus Energy Flexible Octopus 31/10/16 31/10/16 6% £829 £875
Flow Flow Variable 09/11/16 09/11/16 9% £872 £949
So Energy So Out of Contract 11/11/16 14/12/16 2% £913 £935
Bulb Vari-Fair 15/11/16 16/12/16 9% £834 £911
OVO PAYM Simpler (variable) 21/11/16 10/01/17 5% £1,004 £1,054

Source: uSwitch.com. Prices correct as of 21st November, 2016.

The rising price of energy is closely linked with soaring wholesale costs, which have been climbing at their fastest rate in several years due to factors including the falling value of sterling following the EU referendum and concerns about energy supplies this winter. If wholesale costs continue to rise, further and more widespread price hikes on both fixed and variable tariffs could be likely in the coming months. Consumers concerned about higher bills should shop around and switch to a competitive fixed rate deal, to protect against any future rises.

Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “Until the start of this summer, consumers hadn’t faced significant price rises for over two years, but we are now seeing more and more increases from suppliers big and small as rising wholesale prices continue to bite.

“Consumers who are concerned about their energy bills going up should shop around and switch to a better tariff and consider fixed deals. Not only can they save as much as £240 a year, they also provide protection against potential price rises.

“The rising cost of many energy tariffs underlines the need for a more competitive energy market. The Competition and Markets Authority spent two years closely examining the sector and so it’s vital that the Government gives the final package, only published in June, the proper chance to work. The CMA remedies should help more customers move away from expensive standard variable tariffs, lower bills and improve competition. Suppliers must also play their part by doing all they can to help their customers reduce their bills.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

  1. See table 1 in body of press release
  2. See table 2 in body of press release
  3. Prices based on Ofgem average consumption on a dual fuel energy tariff paying by Direct Debit, with prices averaged across all regions.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

SSE freezes standard energy prices until April 2017

shutterstock_359326985

Commenting on today’s announcement from SSE that it will freeze standard household energy prices until at least April 2017, Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “Many consumers are rationing their energy use this winter in fear of sky-high bills. Today’s announcement from SSE is to be welcomed and gives customers on its standard variable tariff peace of mind that they won’t see price hikes until at least April 2017.

“By making this commitment, SSE has thrown down the gauntlet to rival large suppliers to follow its lead. Customers of the five other big suppliers will now be looking for similar assurances, particularly as wholesale prices – which make up almost half the bill – continue rising.

“However, SSE’s standard variable plan, at £1,056 a year, is still £234 more expensive than the best deal on the market, so many SSE customers could be better off by switching – despite today’s price freeze.

“Unlike standard tariffs, many of the best plans on the market are fixed for at least a year, meaning that consumers can benefit from lower prices for longer.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

1 in 3 working families struggle to pay their energy bills

radiator-thermostat-heating-energy-230x230
  • One in three working families – the equivalent of almost four million households – struggle to pay their energy bills[1]
  • Half of working families are planning to cut their energy use this winter so they can afford to pay their bills[2]
  • A third (29%) of families don’t put their heating on even when their house is cold[3]
  • Two thirds (66%) are worried cutting their energy use over winter will have a negative effect on their family’s health[4]
  • Nearly two thirds (61%) say their children don’t focus as well on their homework when their house is cold[5]
  • 37% of families are unaware of schemes which offer support to those in financial difficulty[6]
  • uSwitch.com urges the Government to implement recent CMA remedies and give them a chance to work, as well as extend the Warm Home Discount scheme.

One in three working families (32%) are struggling to pay their energy bills, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching site[1]. A staggering four million homes are already feeling financial pressure ahead of a season which could see major energy suppliers raising their prices for the first time in almost three years.

The research reveals that half of working families (49%) are planning to cut their energy use this winter, just so that they can afford to pay their bills[2] and, alarmingly, a third  (29%) don’t put their heating on even when their house is too cold[3].

This is despite two thirds (66%) being worried about the negative effect that rationing energy may have on their family’s health[4]. Over half of these families (54%) are also concerned that cutting their energy use will negatively affect their child’s performance at school and nearly two thirds (61%) say their children don’t focus as well on their homework when their house is cold[5].

The health implications for children living in cold homes are well documented, more than doubling their chances of suffering respiratory problems like asthma, affecting their emotional well-being and putting them at risk of developing multiple mental health problems in the long-term[7].

Unsurprisingly, single parent families are feeling the pinch most significantly – 43% say their house is too cold for their families but they can’t afford to put the heating on[8].

Faced with the pressure of rising costs, many families are resorting to drastic measures to keep warm. One in ten (10%) have lived in one room in their house, a fifth (19%) have left the oven door open to heat their home, and over 1.5 million families (13%) have gone without household essentials to pay for their bills[9].

To help families access the most competitive tariffs and force suppliers to offer lower prices, remedies from the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) energy market investigation must be implemented quickly, according to uSwitch.com. The CMA’s final package, published only this June, must be given a proper chance to work – with key success criteria put in place to evaluate whether they are helping consumers move away from expensive standard variable tariffs, to drive down bills and improve competition.

In addition, the Government should consider extending the Warm Home Discount scheme, which offers vital financial support to many vulnerable consumers, but is only available through larger energy providers.

Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s appalling that even families in work are struggling to pay their energy bills – and we haven’t even seen any major price hikes for nearly three years. The biggest worry is that, with signs that prices are on the up, many more families could feel forced to keep the heating down in what’s set to be a very cold winter. When you consider that millions of households are already in debt to their energy supplier, it’s a stark warning that consumers feel they have no other option than to ration their energy.

“The CMA spent two years closely examining the energy market and so it’s vital that the Government gives the final package, only published in June, the proper chance to work. The CMA remedies should help more customers move away from expensive standard variable tariffs, lower bills and improve competition in the market. Suppliers must play their part by doing all they can to help their customers move to their best deal.

“In addition, the Warm Home Discount scheme should be extended to cover all energy suppliers to help more vulnerable customers reduce their bills.

“Anyone who is concerned about how they’ll pay their energy bill should talk to their supplier now and find out what help is available. Switching providers can also help reduce bills by an average of £403 a year, so shopping around for a better deal should be one of the first things that families try.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research was conducted online by Opinium between 20th and 26th October 2016, among 2,000 UK adults in working families.

 

  1. When asked ‘Have you ever struggled to pay your energy bills?’, 32% of respondents said ‘yes’. There are 11.8 million working households in the UK (source: ONS). 32% of 11.8 million = 3,776,000.
  2. When asked ‘Are you planning on cutting your energy use so you can afford to pay / pay less for your energy bills?’, 49% of respondents said ‘yes’.
  3. When asked ‘Which of the following, if any, have you done in order to help with heating bills?, 29% of respondents said ‘Not put the heating on, even though their house was too cold’.
  4. 66% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘Cutting my household energy use this winter could negatively affect my family’s health’.
  5. 61% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘My children don’t focus as well on their schoolwork when our home is cold’, and 54% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘Cutting my household energy use this winter could negatively affect my child’s performance at school’.
  6. 37% of respondents said they were unaware of any of the following schemes to help people pay their energy bills: Winter Fuel Payments, Cold Weather Payments, Warm Home Discount scheme or charitable grants to help energy debts.
  7. Source: Friends of the Earth
  8. 43% of single parent households (either working full-time or part-time) said they have not put the heating on, even though their house was too cold, to help with energy bills.
  9. 10% of respondents said they have lived in one room in the house to help with energy bills, 19% of respondents said they have left the oven door open to warm the house, and 13% of respondents said they have gone without other household essentials so they could afford to pay the heating bill.
  10. Energy UK’s electricity switching figures for October 2016: http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/publication.html?task=file.download&id=5929
  11. https://www.uswitch.com/media-centre/2016/11/consumers-head-into-winter-292-million-in-debt-to-energy-suppliers/
  12. Between 1 March 2016 and 31 May 2016, people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with uSwitch saved an average of £403.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

uSwitch comments on latest Energy UK switching figures

shutterstock_125973737

Commenting on today’s announcement from Energy UK that almost 600,000 consumers switched energy provider in October, representing a three-year high, Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s very encouraging to see such high numbers of consumers taking control of their energy bills as we head into winter. Rising wholesale costs have already led some small and medium suppliers to increase their prices[1] and further rises could be on their way. Today alone we have seen Flow raise its standard prices from £872 to £949 a year – a massive 9% hike – while Extra Energy has removed its market-leading £851 fixed tariff.

“There’s still more to be done though. Almost 2.5 million households are already in significant debt to their energy supplier before the cold snap has even kicked in[2], and customers are still over-paying for their energy by around £1.4billion annually[3]. Now is the time to safeguard your energy bills ahead of what looks to be a very harsh winter, and fix your tariff. Switching can save an average of £403 a year[4], so taking time to shop around really does pay off.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Consumers head into winter £292 million in debt to energy suppliers

radiator-thermostat-heating-energy-230x230
  • Almost 2.5 million households are in debt to their energy supplier at the start of winter[1]
  • Households collectively owe energy providers £292 million or an average of £120 each, at a point in the year when they should be in credit[1]
  • 40% of those in debt are increasing their monthly payments to pay off their debts while 18% are choosing to turn a blind eye[2]
  • Suppliers including Co-Operative Energy, GB Energy and Ecotricity have hiked prices in reaction to rising wholesale energy costs, adding pressure on households
  • uSwitch.com urges customers with mounting debts to speak to their energy provider for help managing payments.

Almost 2.5 million homes are heading into winter already owing energy suppliers a staggering £292 million, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching site[1].

The research reveals that the average debt per household is £120, at a point in the year when consumers should be in credit in preparation for the cold months ahead at the start of winter[1]. Recent Ofgem figures indicate that 70% of annual household gas and 54% of household electricity use occurs between October and March so, with households using more energy to keep homes warm in the coming months, millions could find themselves falling even further into debt[3].

Not only is winter fast approaching but wholesale prices – which make up around half of energy bills – continue to rise due to the low value of the pound pushing up the cost of energy imports, future supply concerns and higher transmission prices. This has already led to some energy suppliers, in particular small and medium suppliers including Co-operative Energy, GB Energy and Ecotricity, to raise prices[4].

For customers already in the red with their supplier, any price rises will put even more pressure on households this winter. According to today’s figures, the majority of those in debt (40%) are having to increase their monthly Direct Debit payments, with a further 16% paying everything off in one lump sum[3]. Worryingly, a fifth (18%) of consumers are choosing to turn a blind eye to the amount they owe in the hope it will go down over time[2]. 

Consumers concerned about debts should first speak with their energy supplier, who can provide advice on managing energy use and help devise a plan to make payments more manageable. There is also extra help for vulnerable consumers, including the Warm Home Discount which offers a £140 electricity rebate for eligible customers.

One of the easiest ways to cut bills and help prevent large debt is by switching to a better energy tariff. Over 65% of households languish on some of the most expensive deals on the market[5], despite the fact that switching could save an average of £403 a year[6].

Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “These new figures show how unaffordable energy is for hard-pressed consumers. Winter has barely begun, yet millions of households already owe significant sums to suppliers. Once the cold weather really starts to bite, some consumers will inevitably find themselves in further financial difficulties.

“If you are in debt, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Your first port of call should be speaking to your energy supplier to discuss the problem and work out ways to help resolve it. You should also check if you’re eligible for schemes like the Warm Home Discount, which is available for some vulnerable consumers. If debt levels get out of control and you feel you have nowhere left to turn, you can also talk to organisations and charities like Citizens Advice and StepChange for confidential support.

“You can also consider switching your energy provider and move to a more competitive tariff. With wholesale energy prices continuing to rise, more energy suppliers could hike prices in the coming months. But competitive deals, often offering savings in the hundreds of pounds, are still available – with fixed deals offering protection against price rises. With other economic uncertainties threatening to squeeze household finances, it’s more important than ever to keep in control of energy spending and avoid unnecessarily paying over the odds.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

  1. When asked ‘Thinking about your most recent energy bill from your supplier, which of the following best applies to you? 9% of respondents responsible for paying energy bills, either individually or jointly with someone else referred to ‘in debt/arrears’. 27 million households in the UK. 9% of 27 million = 2,430,000. The mean amount of those in debt was £120. £120 x 2,430,000 = £292 million.
  2. When asked ‘Thinking about the amount you are in debt/arrears with your energy supplier, how are you going to pay it off? 40% said they will increase their monthly direct debit payments, 18% said they are hoping it will go down naturally over time and 16% said they will pay it off in one lump sum
  3. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications-and-updates/infographic-energy-security
  4. https://www.uswitch.com/media-centre/2016/10/gb-energy-raises-prices-by-30/
  5. Source: CMA, summer 2016
  6. Between 1 March 2016 and 31 May 2016, people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with uSwitch saved an average of £403.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Co-operative Energy pays £1.8 million for customer service failings

house-housing-terrace-city-230x230

Ofgem has today announced that Co-operative Energy is to pay £1.8 million to energy consumers because it let customers down in its complaints resolution, call handling and billing processes. Commenting on the news, Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “This large settlement with Ofgem shows that energy suppliers simply cannot afford to fail in basic customer service.

“Co-operative Energy, which recently hiked prices by 3%, experienced serious problems with its online services, leaving customers unable to access accounts, submit meter readings or check bills. This led to a high level of complaints which weren’t then adequately handled. It’s encouraging that the supplier has since given assurances that processes are now in place to meets its obligations and provide a proper level of customer service.

“Ofgem’s tough stance on this is a clear sign to the wider industry that customers must be treated fairly. Poor service will simply not be tolerated.

“More and more people are switching to providers who offer excellent customer service, so customers who aren’t happy with their current provider should vote with their feet.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.