Chameleon against bright pink background

you're paying too much for your energy.

Ok. Let’s qualify that a bit:

  • 60%+ of people in UK haven’t switched energy tariffs for the last 3 years and are paying much too much for their energy.
  • people who switched tariff a year or so ago are probably still paying too much.
  • even people who switched in the last 12 months could be paying a fair price.
  • and if you live in London or South-East you’re paying on average £150 /yr. more for the same thing than the rest of the country.

The simple truth is that most of us are paying too much for our home energy and on average households are paying about £385 a year more than they could be.

But switching energy supplier is a huge hassle and unless you switch supplier tariff every “5 minutes” you’re always likely to be paying more than you need to.

That’s why the relevantly recent emergence of the “auto-switchers” has been such a godsend to the time strapped consumer. These companies basically do everything for you – they find a cheaper supplier, switch you to it and if a better deal comes along they switch you again.

You don’t have to do anything much except agree/disagree and think about where to spend that money. 

why are you paying too much?

When you agreed your tariff it probably wasn’t the cheapest deal around and you might well have known it. Indeed, OFGEM research suggests that most people are confident that they are on the best tariff even when they’ve not switched for over 4 years. *

People tend to stick with brands they know (the Big6 of British Gas, EDF, E.ON, SSE, Npower and Scottish Power). These brands tend to charge more but would argue that their service is better and you are safer with them. (However, they generally come in the bottom quartile of customer satisfaction surveys.)

But the fact remains that the Big6 brands (as well as many others) charge more. In recent months all of them have increased prices to effectively the maximum allowed by the Ofgem price cap increase, adding at least 10% to their variable tariffs from April 1st2019. They cite increased wholesale energy costs but even the Prime Minister has said that tariffs being charged are a “rip off”.

Conversely we’re actually seeing smaller more nimble suppliers reduce prices, who mention that wholesale gas prices actually dropped by 12% since Dec 2018.

Are the big6 ripping you off? Yes.

To be fair they have millions of customers and loads of different tariffs – to make sure that everyone is always on the lowest would cost them money not only in lost income but in investment in systems and people to run it. If you can’t be bothered to switch why should they do it for you?

what can you do?

An easy thing is just to ring your supplier and ask for a better deal. You may get one. It won’t be the best in the world and will probably tie you in for a period but it’s relatively easy to do.

If you have the time and motivation you can spend frustrating hours on a price comparison site and be blinded by a whole host of offers and think you’re getting the best deal.

comparison sites don't show you the best deals

You only get to see the deals that the comparison sites want to show you. Those are the ones that they get paid commission on. So whatever deal they are showing you is inflated by this commission.

The comparison sites are getting a bad press recently. The CMA even found one guilty of using “most favoured nation” contracts with suppliers – which effectively meant that the supplier would not offer a better deal anywhere else.

 

Whenever, there is a business model that is built on ripping off the consumer there is opportunity for a new model to disrupt it. That’s what’s happening in the home energy market.

new suppliers undercut the big6

In recent years there has been an explosion (maybe not an appropriate word) in the numbers of new energy suppliers in UK. These companies are small, agile and want your business.

These are the suppliers who are dropping prices while the big ones raise them. These are also companies that don’t tend to pay commission to comparison sites. Often they specialise, for instance in Green Tariff only supply.

The Big6 don’t like them. But they are gaining traction and are here to stay.

Flipper advert

the rise of the auto-switchers

The other big market change is the launch of the auto-switcher. They are low cost and use clever algorithms to search all supplier tariffs and find you the best one. They don’t just do this once but all day every day. They then go further by actually doing all the work to switch you to it automatically.

They are totally transparent in that they do not take commission from energy suppliers. Instead they charge you an upfront fee (about £30 per year) which you only pay when they switch you to a lower tariff. The first and still the best is Flipper. That’s why we partnered with them to run our auto-switching service. The only other auto-switcher that doesn’t take commission is Switchd.

The big benefit of not taking commission is that these 2 services will show you deals that you will never see on any of the comparison sites or so called “free” auto-switchers.

They won’t switch you until they find you a deal which will earn at least the fee in savings and what’s more they check the market every day for better deals. Once set up you sit backand let them switch you whenever you want.

One downside is that the cheapest supplier is likely to be someone you’ve never heard of.

Most people don’t mind this but you can always choose to switch to one of the Big6 – you’ll still get a better deal that you would get from a comparison site.

Chameleon on hammock

beware the chameleon

The comparison sites have a business model that is under threat. They rely on commission, shady deals and kick-backs from suppliers. The auto-switchers don’t and as result offer you better deals.

To combat this, the comparison sites  have launched their own “auto-switching services”. You may have seen the ads.

Comparethemarket launched a service called AutoSergei, which they call “auto-switching” but isn't. It will show you a limited range of deals (which they get commission on) and then it’s up to you to do the work to switch. They do have a Meerkat mascot though and offer you a free meal voucher – but we know about free lunches right?  

A similar story with Money Supermarket’s BillManagerApp, both will send you an alert when they think you can save money but you have to do the switch.

GoCompare has gone a bit further launching WeFlip, complete with banal mascot in the form of a Chameleon with an Australian accent. WeFlip is free to use because they too only switch you to a supplier where they earn commission. On our last check they offered just 70 deals from 18 suppliers, a poor choice of what’s on the market.

 

Don’t be fooled.  These are just comparison sites dressed up as auto-switching.  

whatever you do....switch

I like auto-switching. It’s transparent. I know what I’m paying for, I'm happy to switch to a cheaper “unknown” supplier, and the auto-service is doing something that I'm too busy to do myself but also one of those things that sat as a source of irritation on the “jobs to do” list.

I have been using Flipper for a year and have been switched 3 times! My bills have gone from just over £2,500 a year to around £1,800 (although just under half that was down to energy reductions I have made with my multi-zone system). In a period of rising energy costs this not a bad return for my £30 investment!

Avoid the comparison sites unless you accept that you will be paying more than you need to.

Whatever you do – switch. Sticking with an old variable tariff is costing you money.

 

better still...

At Homesmart we sell and install smart thermostats that will help cut your energy waste. We also provide a membership plan that includes auto-switching (from Flipper) and an annual boiler service and maintenance and repair. We have designed our offer to help cut your energy use, make sure you are paying less for it whilst giving you more control and comfort. Find out more here..

References

OFGEM Consumer Engagement Survey 2018

Which? Customer Satisfaction Survey Jan 2019

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-energy-sse/sse-becomes-last-of-uks-big-six-to-announce-energy-price-rises-idUKKCN1QA19S

Homesmart solutions limited uses Flipper to power our auto-switching service included as part of our annual membership plan.