Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Like most people, I’m a bit rubbish at paying bills. In fact most of the time, I don’t pay until the final demand. This means more often than not, I’m not paying on direct debit, and I’m not getting the cheapest deal.
Tonight I decided to change that (partially due to a certain someone’s moaning), but partially because I’m not dealing in £10 here and there anymore, but £100’s per year. This is the story of what I’ve learnt over the past two hours.
- Don’t stick with the ‘standard’ tariff, its more expensive especially if your paying cash or card on the receipt of the bill. Always switch to Direct Debit payment. Its easier anyway, assuming payments are from the same account as you get paid into (I’ll moan about bank charges later).
- Switching to a separate Gas and Electric provider will net you at least £40 over a dual fuel tariff (original source here). This is a point I didn’t believe when I read it myself on the forums, but its true. I swear dual fuel tariff’s selling points were around it being cheaper back in the 90’s, seems now the hypes gone its seen as a convenience for you, rather than your provider (WHO YOU’RE PAYING MORE MONEY TO), to pay one bill.
- Don’t use uSwitch. I don’t know what it was about their algorithm, but it just wasn’t right (I’m not saying they’re wrong here). I entered the SAME numbers in, the same postcode and the same payment methods, and on multiple occasions the results would change. Not drastically mind, but enough for me to feel that they were manipulating the results for their benefit (remember they get paid to refer you in these schemes). As usual here I went to moneysavingexpert, who recommended ‘EnergyHelpline‘. They seemed ok, mostly the same results as uSwitch, but without the WTF value. Which brings me on to my next point.
- Those numbers after the energy tariff names (i.e. ‘Online Energy Saver *13*’), they’re meaningless, pretty much. In some cases they refer to the year the prices are guaranteed to, sometimes to the current year, and sometimes are just sequential. You can’t switch to an old tariff, so unless you’re on one of these already the chances are you’re going to need to go with the new kid on the block tariff wise. Ignore these numbers.
- My final point of this fact finding mission. I decided, rather than go through the heartache of switching provider (note – I don’t love my current provider – Scottish Power – that much, I just CBA to change.), I’d stick with my current provider, and go on their recommended tariff ‘Online Energy Saver 13’, which came up consistently high (third place – with good ‘reviews’ if such a thing was possible!).
So, always going forwards..
Now, you’d think switching from one tariff with a provider to another would be easy, right? Turns out I’m wrong. When you enter the Scottish Power site, it asks in a friendly manner..
‘Are you an existing customer’ Yes / No
How cheerful, I thought, perhaps if I’m an existing customer I get a different site with rainbows and lollypops, and perhaps some scantily clad women. Turns out, no. Instead I’m greeted with less options, as illustrated in a little game of spot the different in the image below.
It seems if I’m an existing customer I’m not allowed to see the super duper mega cool discounted tariff. Perhaps as an existing customer they’re afraid it would make my head explode with the awesomeness of the tariff.
Because they’re Bi-Winners
As if insulting existing customers once wasn’t enough, I decided to call up and see if I can get switched to this awesome plan. Of course, being such a busy person, like I am, and having spent two hours digging through the mess that currently is the UK utilities market, the call centre was closed. Just my luck I thought, nevermind I’ll call back tomorrow..
But hold on.. whats that.. I can do this online, of course! Its not called an *online* energy saver for nothing.
Wait a minute (apart from their site not working in Chrome), NONE of those options match up with what I’ve seen online. Then it struck me, I’ll call their sales number, it’ll probably be open…
Thats right, 0845 for EXISTING customers, 0800 for NEW customers. I thought this silliness was over. I don’t pay to call my phone company now. If I join a company on an 0800 number, why do I then receive customer service on an 0845 number (which are designed to generate revenue).
Sorry Scottish Power, but you’ve got a lot to learn here. Other providers I visited had a big button allow existing customers to easily switch tariff, you on the other hand, hide it.
If you’re a member of Scottish Power, uSwitch, or any other company I’ve insulted or praised in this post, feel free to contact me or leave a comment. Perhaps if I’m interested enough I’ll reply, but I’d love to know why you feel it necessary to favour new customers instead of existing ones, considering you pay soo much in referral fees to get them in the first place.
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