Don't Overpay for Energy

Although there is the Big Six, the largest electricity suppliers in the UK, there are also many smaller, independent companies that provide energy to residents. One thing to consider, regardless of the size or popularity of the supplier, is whether or not they are overcharging for electricity.

There are some things consumers can be mindful about to prevent companies from overcharging them for electricity. Five simple steps or considerations can be taken to assure consumers are paying the right rate for the appropriate product.

1. Avoid increased prices and exit fees.

When UK electricity suppliers increase their prices, customers tend to start looking around for alternatives. If they find alternatives, their current suppliers are notified. Between the time that the suppliers are notified of the change and the actual switch occurring, they can end up charging their customers the new rate. As a result, the customers are at a new rate that they do not necessarily approve of. Customers need to be very aware of what they are being charged on their very last bills as they transition from their old supplier to their new one.

There are times when the old electricity supplier will sneak in an exit fee when customers switch to a different company. If this occurs, customers have the right to complain and get their money back. Ofgem, who sets the market's standards, stipulates rules regarding these situations in Standard License Conditions 23 and 24.

Customers have to let their current electricity supplier know before the day the rates are set to increase. It is also beneficial for customers to remind their new suppliers that they have 15 days to notify the old company that a switch is about to occur.

2. Be aware of "catch up" bills.

If the electricity supplier sends estimated bills to clients, it is important for customers to monitor their charges closely when the "real" numbers are presented. When estimates are too low, consumers run the risk of paying too much after the prices are raised. This happens when a price hike happens midway through a billing cycle.

It is beneficial for customers to make sure that the energy they consumed before the price hike is charged at the former, lower rate. This allows them to avoid being charged new prices on energy consumed prior to the date of the increase. When consumers monitor their "catch up" bills, they are less likely to end up paying for old electricity at the new rate.

3. Read the meter on the day prices are raised.

It is important for customers to monitor their meters on the day prices are supposedly rising. Usually, companies are not reading the meter on the day prices are set to increase, so they estimate consumption up until that point. This results in a potential for overcharging a consumer for energy consumed prior to the price change. If consumers are aware of the moment prices are increased, they are better able to interpret their bills and avoid overcharging.

4. Complain when necessary.

When the supplier is not serving customers to their best abilities, complaints against them can be filed through the Energy Ombudsman. If a complaint lodged directly against the company is not attended to within eight weeks, customers do have the right to seek support from outside. The Energy Ombudsman would help the customer sort out the situation and send them on the right path.

5. When all else fails, switch.

If nothing is working out between the customer and electricity supplier, then it is time to make a switch. If the supplier is not willing to consider the questions and concerns, and customers are frustrated, a switch is the best for everyone.

There are many different organisations online that will help consumers make informed switches between UK electricity suppliers. These include: -- all consumers need is a postcode and email address and they can make comparisons on this site. -- at Which? Switch, customers simply have to provide a postcode and whether they want electricity, gas, or both, and they can make comparisons on this site. -- similar to the first two sites, customers enter a postcode and what services they desire and they are able to make comparisons on this website.

As electricity prices continue to increase in the UK, it is important for consumers to be aware and closely monitor their own situations. It is easy to misinterpret or miss the hidden charges that may creep into a bill.


The Business of Electricity

Understanding Today's Electricity Business
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