Archives for posts with tag: British Gas plc

The Big Six energy companies are ripping us off and making billions in profits. It’s time to fight back, says Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth

 A lightning bolt of anger has shot through the British public over the last few days – and it’s not because of some kind of freak weather event. Families up and down the land are up in arms over soaring energy bills – now averaging an eye-watering £1300 a year – and the Government’s recent energy summit, where the Prime Minister summoned the Big Six energy companies with barely a slap on the wrist for hiking prices, will do nothing to sooth them.

The public is angry with good reason: the Big Six energy companies – household names like British Gas, EDF and E.ON – are ripping us all off and making billions in profit. It’s an issue that truly affects us all, as they supply 99 per cent of households in the UK. So when they hike prices – to the tune of an average 12 per cent this year alone – there’s barely a soul in the land who isn’t affected. With profits soaring at the same time, and bosses picking up pay packets of over £1 million a year, it’s enough to send a shock of rage through any system.

It’s a nightmare scenario – and one, without the Government acting, shows no signs of ending any time soon. Our energy bills are rocketing because our energy system is broken– it’s as simple as that. The Big Six energy companies are keeping us hooked on expensive imported gas, and it suits them pretty nicely to keep it that way – after all, any increases in the price they can just pass onto their customers: us.

Recent Friends of the Earth research shows that every household in the UK faces extra costs of £300 a year by 2020 if the big energy companies invest in a new fleet of gas and coal-fired power stations and ditch plans to help us save energy and harness power from the wind, waves and sun. Yet this is exactly the route that will bring a better deal for consumers in the long-run.

Enough is enough. The Government needs to act to tackle the Big Six energy companies. That’s why Friends of the Earth has launched its Final Demand campaign for energy we can all afford. We need a public inquiry into the Big Six’s power and urgent action to stop the Government killing off our clean British energy providers. The time for talking shops is over. Come on, Prime Minister: act.

Join Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign at foe.co.uk/finaldemand 

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by Deborah Burley

Image by savethejellyrabbit via flickr

Price rises, inquiries and accusations of cartel-like behaviour. It’s hardly surprising that more and more people are looking to smaller energy suppliers – but do they offer a genuine alternative?

The Big Six, otherwise known as ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), EDF, British Gas, npower and E.ON are the largest energy suppliers in UK.

However, in recent months they’ve each implemented a series of price rises, which has left many households in Britain struggling to pay their energy bills.

Swamping the market, the Big Six supply over 99% of the UK with energy. It may mean that customers are sometimes unaware of other energy companies out there, and are left feeling that there are no alternatives than to hold on tigichht to their existing supplier – price rise or not.

As well as prices increasing dramatically (the average customer’s bill is now 21% higher than this time last year), there have been other struggles for the Big Six’s customers.

The latest consumer survey for energy from uSwitch found that only 58% of people were satisfied with the customer service received from their supplier.

And the energy industry had another shake recently following news that 27% of households had received the wrong energy bill in the last two years. Shortly after this, it was declared the second worst industry for billing.

It was yet another knockback for energy companies, wh are struggling to improve the consumer confidence.

Energy reform


Energy secretary Chris Huhne has recently pledged to improve the energy industry, by allowing a wider competition to develop amongst energy suppliers.

At the latest Lib Dem conference he said Ofgem would have more control over increasing renewable energy and simplifying tariffs billing systems.

He said that: “It is not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers – who do not switch – while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market.

“That looks to me like predatory pricing. It must and will stop.”

It means that smaller energy suppliers will perhaps now have the chance to make an impact on the market, and his opinions may have got people thinking.

Smaller energy suppliers, why switch?

A series of negative stories surrounding the six dominant energy suppliers has given smaller companies a chance to compete and offer the pubic a viable alternative. It means that customers can look outside of the box and decide whether there are other options out there.

Ofgem recently put pressure on gas and electricity suppliers to prove how they calculate energy bills. But, First Utility, for example, is offering its customers free smart meters which automatically take a meter reading every half an hour for accurate bills. It’s their way of proving that their prices can be trusted.

But customers don’t just want a good price for their energy, they’re looking for the extra benefits from their energy suppliers too.

There has been a distinct increase in the sense of social responsibility about where we get our energy from, leaving us more likely to sign up to green suppliers who will relieve our energy guilt as well as our overheads.
Ecotricity, for instance, offers green energy along with lower prices, while Good Energy creates its electricity from renewable sources generated by wind, small-scale hydro and solar power generators around Britain.

EBICo, a not-for-profit company, only offers single-tier gas and electricity tariffs where each unit of energy used costs the same.

The promise of a fixed rate energy tariff  seems to be an attractive one for consumers feeling uneasy about an increased bill. OVO is an example of a smaller supplier offering fixed price plans and it is also offering  paperless bills and tariffs as well as online account management, which is popular among those looking to modernise the relationship they have with their energy supplier and keep all admin waste-free.

What next?                                                                  

At the moment, the ulitmate outcome of this new political attention on the the energy industry waits to be seen. How the energy market might change for the better is still unsure, although some energy suppliers have been making concessions to make bills easier to manage financially.

uSwitch recently supported plans from E.ON to offer customers a reduction on their yearly bill over a two year contract and, with the government’s clearly watchful eye on the gas and electricity suppliers, services may still improve for UK energy users.

For those that aren’t so sure though, and want a change from the biggest energy suppliers, here’s a few of the smaller energy companies worth considering, and their annual price rate:

Supplier

Plan Name

Payment Method

Price

First Utility

iSave Dual Fuel V8

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,032

First:Utility

Smart as Standard V2

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,049

Ovo

New Energy Fixed*

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,050

OVO Energy

New Energy Fixed

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,050

Spark Energy

Standard

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,057

OVO Energy

Green Energy Fixed

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,102

The Co-Operative Energy

Pioneer

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,179

Utilita

Energysaver

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,206

Telecom Plus

Dual Fuel

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,232

Good Energy

Good Energy & Gas +

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,247

EBIco

EquiDual

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,293

Telecom Plus

Dual Fuel

Pay on Receipt of Bill

£1,352

Spark Energy

Standard Plus

Pay on Receipt of Bill

£1,504

British Gas EY04LZM

Image by didbygraham via Flickr

by Ann Robinson

The announcement that British Gas would be fined £2.5m came as a shock to some, and not such a shock to others. British Gas had been accused of not properly following up complaints, especially when it came to its small business customers.

British Gas, however, argue that the mishandled complaints made up a small proportion of the 16m accounts it holds, and that the fine was ‘disproportionate’ to the crime.

This is not the first time we have heard of poor customer service in the energy market. It has notoriously come last in customer service polls when compared with other industries, and has been a cause of concern for Ofgem, which is currently investigating practices in the industry.

The uSwitch Customer Satisfaction Awards, which occurs annually, has of late shown some improvement in the industry, but not enough. Still, less than 6 in ten of us are satisfied with their service.

In fact, energy suppliers have consistently been voted the worst for getting bills wrong since 2007, worringly only losing out to the Inland Revenue.

Although 4 in 10 energy billing queries are resolved out within a week, but on average billing inaccuracies take just over 2 months to resolve.

This certainly leaves space for improvement, but what is more important is the manner with which they deal with customers.

If the customer is treated well and kept informed, it does wonders for a company’s reputation – so much so that even a complaint can a loyal customer make.

On the bright side, there are some very positive signs in the energy market. Less households are being billed inaccurately, less money is being owed as a result and less time is being taken to resolve mistakes. It may not be perfect, but at least we’re moving forward.

by Tom Lyon

With the entire world’s media all focused on the sudden and dramatic fall of the News of the World after 168 years of publication, some are questioning whether British Gas might have seen this as a golden opportunity to bury bad news about price hikes.

But does today’s announcement represent damage control tactics on their part or simply one of life’s coincidences?  Ultimately only British Gas knows the answer but that shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying a few minutes of speculation…

As many, many people have said – mostly far smarter, wittier and more clichéd than me – hindsight is a truly wonderful thing and looking back there were a number of signs suggesting that today was a likely day for a British Gas price rise.

British Gas has been openly hinting at the need to put prices up for several months now, not least in a statement at the end of June when they indicated a 50% drop in profits in the first half of the year and the need for ‘retail margin recovery’, so we knew a hike was coming.

With this in mind, Centrica, British Gas’s parent company, will be announcing its half year results at the end of the month and this price rise needed to come before that to reassure shareholders worried about a fall in profits.

Add to that the trend that price rises tend to come on Fridays and we are down to a choice of two or three likely days in July.  The upshot of all this is, in hindsight at least, today was always one of the most likely days…

One other thing to bear in mind is the huge amount of work that goes into a price rise affecting this many customers  – I heard one industry-insider estimate that it costs suppliers around £1.5 million to change prices on their standard rates.

Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t take much to imagine the mammoth task of sending out millions of letters. British Gas, for example, has 9 million letters it has to print to send to customers, all dated and ready to start sending out on the day.  Now, the News of the World saga has been bubbling for a week or so but it only became huge news yesterday afternoon when its closure was announced.  In my view, anyone who thinks British Gas (or any other supplier) is capable of preparing for a price rise in less than 24 hours is totally off the mark and probably guilty of giving them a bit too much credit!

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