Power to your Mouse

 This morning, Friday Jan 15th 2016, on Radio 4 I heard that British consumers were getting ripped off. Nothing new of course since Maggie Thatcher began the process of selling off our assets. In most things we're getting ripped off but on the radio today a representative from the power industry was explaining that naturally, the industry was setting prices as high as possible. What's more he was from EoN...our supplier!!

The announcer explained that, although it was easy to switch one's gas and electricity supplier, mostly... people didn't bother.

How easy is it? Well, ages ago I tried to switch but was so confused over alternative deals I didn't bother. Of course, if you don't possess a computer, AND are reasonably adept at using it there's no chance you'll ever switch supplier AND be ripped off (despite the claims such as "Because keeping a promise matters" ... quote from EoN on the front of their booklet full of pictures of laughing people.. incidentally, on Page 2 of said booklet... Is the old guy smiling broadly, whilst on the phone, getting a much reduced quote from another supplier?)

As I mentioned, our supplier is EoN. It wasn't once upon a time, but our old supplier was bought out and EoN just took over. We used to have "Staywarm"... in fact, we were one of the first to sign up for the special deal offered to pensioners. The "Special Deal" lasted for only a short time because, naturally if you signed up to stay warm, then you stayed warm. Unmetered gas and electricity was a dream come true, especially when you liked to be warm. Gradually though the deal turned sour. The low quarterly price started to rapidly rise until it reflected the amount of gas and electricity you were actually using. Because it was still "unmetered", unless you actually used the amount predicted, you lost out. Hence you just used more and more and obviously the new annual prices got hiked up and up and up.

At last Staywarm was stopped.Our provider switched us to something supposed to be "equal in value". It wasn't easy to switch to another provider because one's consumption by that time was sky high and resulted in snotty remarks such as "we don't handle commercial users". So we stayed with EoN.

Today, I decided to switch... definitely. Because we'd opted not to receive paper bills, I had to log onto EoN's website to find our consumption. Not easy, but eventually after an email or two to find my user name and password, I was able to see my account details.

Incredibly confusing. Does "CR" mean I'm in the black or in the red (for example BT used "Credit" to mean you were in debt)? My monthly charges varied from £245 down to £36. My "credit", whatever that means, went from minus £220 to plus £1,255 over a couple of years. Consumption was based mainly on "Estimated" meter readings. My latest bill dated 4th Jan 2016 said I'd just paid £216 and the "credit" was £1,026. I went to read the meters. My "Estimated" electricity reading was nearly 1,200 units higher than the actual meter reading. No wonder I have loads of credit. EoN were misrepresenting my consumption by a huge amount. I'm acting as a banker to EoN and that's just not acceptable. But how much electricity and gas are we actually using? Before I can switch with confidence I need to discover the true amounts.

I downloaded the last eight bills. I couldn't get any more because the EoN website gave me error messages.

No help reading the bills though. Too many Estimated readings and stupid credit sums.

Let's try the meter readings. This was the answer because I was able to pinpoint two readings on the same day in consecutive years that were actual rather than estimated.

24th September 2015 and 24th September 2014 gave me 90,151 minus 81,655 or 8,496 KWh of electricity for 12 months, similarly the gas readings were 3362 minus 1551.

Now to convert the gas readings: Using the factors in the last bill I worked out that we'd used 20,264KWh of gas. Unless I've made a mistake this meant we'd used 8 megawatt hours of electricity and 20 megawatt hours of gas. So, armed with these numbers I ploughed on and tried two or three comparison websites. Interestingly the cheapest deals were from companies not signed up to the switch sites. Clearly, unless I'm misinterpreting something, it costs more if you switch to a provider that's signed up to a switching website....

Because we use the same provider for gas and electricity I tried this option first. I could save a predicted £606 per year. Bad idea though, because by splitting gas and electricity between two suppliers I was able to save over £700 per year.

I switched my gas to "Better Energy Supply Ltd" and electricity to "GB Energy Supply" for £700 savings.

Both will have organised switching in about 3 weeks. Let's see what happens...... Our broadband switchover was seamless...

Incidentally, in the above paragraphs I've used the word "supplier" but of course most of these companies are mainly billing agents for the main energy producers. A few of the choices actually produce electricity and (nowadays) pump natural gas down pipelines. The billing agents buy the products at wholesale prices and add a mark up, then try to confuse us with figures and exotic sounding energy plans. Hopefully, cross fingers, the confusion is managed by the switching websites. Now I'll need to remember two user names and two passwords...

December 2016.. of course it's obvious isn't it.. sooner or later one of the emerging billing agents cutting costs to the bone to gain more customers would come a cropper. I received an email telling me that my chosen , really cheap, electricity supplier had gone into liquidation and the powers that be were taking over and transferring my custom to someone new.

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