When it comes to choosing Gas and Electricity suppliers I am baffled. Tariff type, Unit rate, Standing charges, dual fuel, DD, Exit fees, etc, etc. All I want to know is the overall price for supplying gas and electricity but dream on.
My fixed tariff agreement is about to expire. If I do nothing I will be transferred to the Standard Rate with a big hike in charges. Lest I should be bombarded with suggestions that online switching sites are the answer, I know but they can be part of the problem: The Charity Age UK earned £6m a year for encouraging thousands to sign up to special rate that was £245 higher than cheapest tariff.
Money Saving Expert assures me that by using the Cheap Energy Club I can make significant savings by switching to British Gas. That seemed like a good idea before I heard the boss of Centrica on the BBC's Breakfast Time show this morning justifying the rise in British Gas profits of 31%. What if I sign up and then they reduce their prices? I will be stuck with a fixed tariff until February 2017 unless paying exit fees makes a change worthwile.
After reading about a supposed good deal on a switching site a few months ago I decided to switch. My current supplier then phoned to tell me that comparison sites do not necessarily offer the best advice because "there are various ways of calculating costs". Also some sites do not include all suppliers in their comparisons. Then of course there were the meter readings; were they up to date? And don't forget the mild Winter effect.... I accepted the advice offered and left the decision to another day. My supplier couldn't offer a better deal at the time although there could be a better deal in February when new tariffs may be available. I am still waiting and it is decision time.
The Government assures me that competition is good for the economy benefiting customers with lower prices. But what about consumers who are unable to navigate the obstacle course and the many pensioners who do not have access to a computer or lack the necessary internet skills?
Competition has become a means of boosting profits at the expense of the vulnerable. In fact, a proposal considered by the Competition and Markets Authority is a plan put forward by energy companies themselves to end the use of indefinite standard tariffs and 'force' households to choose a new gas and electricity deal every year. A "licence to rip off consumers" was the verdict of the charity Citizens Advice.
Instead of being given a licence to rip off consumers, energy suppliers should be compelled to advertise their cheapest rates, thus enabling customers to choose between suppliers for the best deal.
Now that that would be an innovation!