We may well be starting to come out of the recession, but by no means are we out of the water when it comes to increasing energy prices. Energy has perhaps been one of the most scrutinised areas of the market place since 2008, with many if not all of the UK's suppliers putting their prices up steadily and with no remorse. This was despite the very same companies recording record profits, British Gas come to mind, and unemployment hitting new lows.
This all seems like a rather long time ago now, as news of an economic recovery and improving unemployment levels start to filter through and help to boost morale. However, the majority of UK consumers, whether this is from a business or domestic perspective, continue to be ripped off and pay well over the odds for their energy. In fact, some households and businesses are thought to be paying more than £300 too much for the gas and electricity.
It has been very easy for consumers to fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing they can do about this worrying trend, but this in far from the case. The mind set of "the energy firms, particularly the Big Six, can charge what they want and there is pretty much nothing we can do about it" has been too easily adopted by the British public. There most certainly is, and if the 7 out of 10 customers who have never done anything to lower their utility bills just took a few minutes out of their schedule, we could see these multi-million pound corporations taking advantage of far less consumers indeed.
There are actually a plethora of options available to every single individual paying too much for their energy, from contacting every supplier directly all the way to one of the big comparison sites such as Compare The Market et al. There are two options however, which have really stood out over the years and have been proven to save every customer who takes advantage of them, serious cash. These are the concept of collective switching and the specialist home and business energy comparison sites, who do not charge the customer a penny for their services.
Collective switching has been banded around by many areas of the British media as the 'power to the people" solution to the worsening energy dilemma. In a nutshell, the system involves large volumes of customers often in excess of tens of thousands, getting together to switch at the same time. This will often be invigilated by a local council or watchdog and allows these large groups to command a lower rate for all involved. It has worked with varying degree of success in Australian and closer to home, in areas such as Oldham and Nottingham. The only drawback to collective switching is that every single individual gets the same price, so many will not make the maximum saving possible. Each household's energy tariff is very different dependent on their usage, locale and size of property, so collective switching does not allow these circumstances to be considered in a bespoke fashion. This said, the weight of having so many people looking to switch, does take a certain amount of power from the suppliers and passes it back to the community.
Specialist Energy Comparison Sites
Almost in contrast to taking advantage of collective switching initiatives, specialist energy comparison sites assess each business and household and come up with a tailored solution. These cost the consumer nothing whatsoever as these sites make their money from the suppliers they pass business too, but it is always in their interest to find the customer the most frugal option. The statistics really speak for themselves with these services, with average savings of between £180 and £300 being enjoyed, depending on the level of energy being consumed. It seems that much of the United Kingdom are dubious when it comes to comparison engines, but when it comes to energy these outfits have the market expertise and ultimately, time, to broker the consumer a better deal and save them money on their utilities virtually straight away. Downsides to such services are hard to find, as they also remind customers when their renewals are due and ensure that people do not fall foul of expensive rolled over contracts.
Time for the Consumer to Take the Initiative...
With options such as collective switching and energy comparison sites readily available to the British public, it seems scandalous that seven out of every ten consumers have never switched to a cheaper energy tariff. With the government and Ofgem failing to live up to their promise of finding the customer the best deal when it comes to their gas and electricity, it is surely time that the public took the initiative and moved their household or business to a more affordable energy supplier.