Thursday, 30 March 2017

Smart meter deadline passes

Suppliers fail to hit back billing deadlines
Energy suppliers in the UK have failed to meet their self-imposed targets for reducing the amount of back billing to consumers. Those with smart meters have been hit with unexpected bills following smart meters not reporting usage correctly.

Suppliers predicted that late 2016 would have been the end to this practice, however, none of the Big Six or independent suppliers have achieved this. They are still back-billing for 12 months, as opposed to reducing the period to six months.

Smart meters are due to be installed into all UK homes over the next four years, and will provide accurate readings in real-time for generating more accurate bills and avoiding any nasty surprises. Over 2 million of the homes already using these meters have experienced some sort of problem with the accuracy and have had to make additional payments.

Previously, Ofgem had commended this plan as a great improvement for customers who may have struggled in the past to provide accurate meter readings in time for their bill each month. Billpayers would be protected from surprising costs if the ability to read meters in real time prevented the amount of inaccurate bills.

Citizens Advice has hit out at Ofgem to try and create a stricter regulation on this practice, highlighting "it’s not right that people with this technology should suffer because of suppliers’ mistakes". The service dealt with 1,500 smart meter issues in 2016 and almost a third of those issues were directly related to billing problems - doubling the amount dealt with in 2015.

SSE came under fire earlier in the year as a software issue meant that users were looking at bills of more than £30,000. They have since issued a statement to say that a fix has been issued and correct readings can still be accessed on the website.

Julian Morgan, managing director of Energy Advice Line, commented on the importance of getting smart meters right. "Consumers will be reliant on this technology to keep track of their energy spend and ensure that they are only being charged for what they are using. Back bills have always caught customers out and hopefully suppliers can stick to their promises to ensure that this can be avoided in the future."

Figures from 2016 show that smart meters have been installed in around 8% of UK households so far.

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Let's support the SMEs

Energy companies letting down SMEs

The Energy Advice Line has welcomed calls by business leaders for small firms to be offered more help by energy companies to keep their gas and electricity prices down.

Julian Morgan, managing director of the price comparison, switching and advice service, agreed with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) that energy companies could reap rewards by offering more tailored support to SMEs.

“Energy costs now represent a significant proportion of a small firm’s overheads but many owners are so busy with the day-to-day running of their organisation they don’t get around to developing an energy strategy,” Mr Morgan said.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Keep energy simple

Energy insider calls for fairer customer servce

The Energy Advice Line has welcomed calls by an industry insider for the Big Six suppliers to introduce simple changes that would see customers paying less for their energy, and being treated more fairly.

Julian Morgan, managing directer of the price comparison, switching, and advice service for energy users, said regulators should heed the comments by First Utility, a leading independent supplier, and enforce the changes.

"First Utility has echoed what we have been saying for some time - that energy companies need to make simple changes, like actually talking to their customers, in order to restore trust and deliver them a better deal," Mr Morgan said.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Are business energy bills a worry?

50% of surveyed firms can't pay energy bills

More small and medium-sized firms should seek help with reducing their energy bills says The Energy Advice Line.

Julian Morgan, managing director of the price comparison, switching and advice service for energy users, said a new survey by Vickers Energy Group suggested firms were not taking control of their gas and electricity supplies.

"It's crucial for SMEs not to put their energy supplies in the too hard basket and just coast along hoping for the best," Mr Morgan said.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Consumers need lower prices

Ofgem need to investigate energy network costs

The Energy Advice Line has urged Ofgem to investigate network costs as a matter of priority in a bid to improve competition in the UK energy market and deliver lower prices to consumers.

Julian Morgan, managing director of the price comparison, switching and advice service for energy customers, said the costs were a significant factor in domestic and business energy bills and needed to be tackled.

The energy watchdog, Ofgem, has come under fire from MPs for failing to crack down on the energy distribution and transmission costs charged by network companies and passed on to consumers by suppliers.

MPs said the price caps intended to keep the costs down were too generous, and network costs were now a significant and overlooked factor in high bills.

Mr Morgan said the average dual fuel bill now cost more than £1,300 per year, with network charges making up almost a quarter of the total. Ofgem needed to do everything in its power to reduce the effective monopoly enjoyed by network companies such as National Grid, Scottish and Southern Energy and Northern Power Grid, he said.

“Ofgem claims it will take eight years to see whether value for money is being delivered to the UK energy market as a result of its regulatory reforms but this is too long for hard-pressed consumers to wait,” Mr Morgan said.

“It needs to put pressure on both network companies and suppliers to reduce these network costs and pass the savings on. There is ample room for customers to enjoy much better value for money.

“The system is also too complex and confusing for consumers, with prices varying around the country and many people very unsure about what these charges are actually for.

“It’s time Ofgem used its regulatory muscle to force energy companies to bring these charges down and it make this aspect of energy bills simpler.”

MPs have asked Ofgem to investigate the feasibility of a national tariff to simplify charging and make prices less volatile, and called on the government to do more to encourage smaller generators to enter the market to increase competition.

“While there are some things that consumers have no control over, like network charges, they can do what they can to keep their bills down by shopping around and switching supplier to make sure they’re on the lowest possible tariff,” Mr Morgan said.

The Energy Advice Line is one of the UK's leading price comparison and switching services for business and domestic energy customers. It is also an advocate for energy market reform and has campaigned for a better deal for energy users, including calling for a ban on cold calling and changes to regulations to make it easier for all consumers to switch suppliers.

The service is completely independent and free. Consumers can quickly and simply search the market for the best available energy deals from an extensive panel of small and large energy suppliers. The service also offers a free advice line for business energy customers.

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