What's your energy provider doing to help this winter?

Published:
19 October 2011
Topic:
News,Gas & Electricity

The major energy firms have been criticised for not doing enough to help customers save money on their gas and electricity bills but they're fighting back and claim to have a range of measures to make bills more affordable.

We take a look at what help the big six, which provide gas and electricity to the vast majority of UK households, are offering:

British Gas

British Gas has launched its "Winter Warmer" package; a range of measures designed to help consumers save energy and keep their bills as low as possible whilst also keeping their homes warm.

It is estimated that the package will provide help to over one and a half million homes.

Having hiked gas prices by an average of 18% and electricity by 16% in August, adding around £190 a year to the average customer's bill, British Gas has said it won't increase prices again this winter.

It has also introduced a tariff checking system which will identify whether customers are on the alert them to any discounts, benefits and rewards they're entitled to.

This will run alongside a scheme designed to raise awareness of the Warm Homes Discount Scheme (WHDS), which is an initiative that can save qualifying customers £120 on their winter electricity bills provided they apply before January 2012.

The WHDS is available if you are:

• in receipt of Cold Weather payments

• or have a household income below £16,190 and are elderly or in receipt of means tested eligible benefit

• or have a household income below £16,190 and have a disability or long term illness

• or have a household income of below £16,190 and are spending more than 10% on fuel for adequate heating (usually 21 degrees for the main living area)

Customers who think they are eligible can call British Gas on 0800 048 0202.

In addition, British Gas is offering a flexible payment scheme to customers who pay via direct debit to give them the opportunity to set and manage their own payments so they are not paying more than they can reasonably afford.

British Gas has also promised not to disconnect domestic customers during the winter months (December to February) but it is unclear exactly what sanctions non-paying customers will actually face.

Vulnerable customers, such as the elderly and disabled, will be given priority service in boiler breakdowns and will also have up until the end of March 2012 to sign up for free loft and wall cavity insulation, which is worth at least £200 per home and can save householders an average of £200 per year on their dual fuel bill.

For more information click here. 

E.ON

E.ON has also announced a range of winter support initiatives designed to help consumers who may be struggling to pay their energy bills this winter but its tactic appears to be centred more on educating customers about their energy usage rather than money saving schemes such as price freezing and flexible payments.

To help consumers through the winter, E.ON will target pre-payment customers with text, emails and telephone calls to inform them of how much they will need to top-up to meet their predicted energy usage.

This will include monitoring the use of pre-payment meters to give individual advice to customers before they reach the point where they are exhausting their emergency credit.

E.ON's elderly, disabled and more disadvantaged customers will be supported by the Community Energy Champions programme, a scheme that will send out energy assessors to the most vulnerable in society to help educate them on their energy use and make them aware of any financial support they may be entitled to, such as the Warm Homes Discount Scheme, WarmAssist and Age UK Tariff.

E.ON is set to include'tariff signposts' on their bills which will advise customers on the alternative energy plans that are available to them and will also offer an online survey that will provide bespoke advice that will instantly be put in place to control their energy use and lower their bills.

In addition to offering advice, E.ON is also providing loft and cavity wall insulation to all customers for £150 and offering it free to the most vulnerable customers.

For more information click here.

EDF Energy

EDF Energy is offering a number of "Winter Warmer" packages, which are predominantly based upon fixed rate tariffs that protect customers from possible future price increases.

It has three fixed-price products:

Price Protection 2014 offers customers protection from price increases until 30th June 2014 and pays out a £75 welcome bonus.

Price Protection 2013 offers customers protection from price increases until 31st March 2013 and pays out a £50 welcome bonus.

Price Protection 2013 just offers customers protection from price increases until 31st Decmeber 2012 and does not pay out a welcome bonus.

Customers are tied in for the duration of the fixed deal and will pay a penalty if they switch to a different provider before the end of the term.

In addition, EDF has a home insulation scheme that offers loft insulation to homeowners and private tenants for £199 or free to customers over 70 years of age or those on certain income or disability related benefits.

For more information click here.

NPower

Like British Gas, npower has guaranteed that it won't increase its prices again this winter.

As well as the price guarantee is also offering customers the chance to fix their gas and electricity prices until March 2013 protecting them from possible price rises next year.

The deal is called the Winter Fix Tariff and anyone who signs up for it will receive a £40 bonus payment.

In addition, dual fuel customers that pay via direct debit for a continuous 12-month period will receive an annual direct debit discount of £100.

As with the other providers, npower also offers customers a discount on home insulation.

It will install loft and cavity wall insulation for a flat fee of £149 and some customers will receive it for free, although this depends on circumstances. Npower estimates insulation cuts £110 off annual bills, so even if you have to pay you'll recoup the outlay within two years.

For more information click here.

SSE

Formerly Scottish & Southern Energy, SSE has a range of measures aimed at educating customers about how to become more energy efficient.

It claims to be working on improving awareness of the Warm Home Discount Scheme, the EnergyPlus care schemes and any other initiatives that offer consumers financial help with their energy bills during the winter months.

SSE will also be proactively calling customers with pre-payment meters to ensure that they do not disconnect themselves by using up all of their emergency credit and will be providing tailored payment arrangements for around 300,000 customers who are having difficulty in paying their energy bills.

The company has also promised that it won't disconnect the gas or electricity supply of any customer between December 2011 and February 2012 unless there are issues of safety or criminality involved.

As far as price increases go, SSE has pledged that current energy prices will be fixed until the end of August 2012 and customers have the chance to extend this by opting onto its Fixed Discount tariff that guarantees a two per cent discount beyond August 2012 as well as a further seven per cent discount through a combination of direct debit payments and online billing.

SSE also offers free loft and cavity wall insulation to customers that meet their criteria. Customers should contact the company to see if they qualify.

SSE operates a number of different brands so make sure you contact the correct one:

Southern Electricity in England

SSE in England

SWALEC in Wales

Scottish Hydro in Scotland

Airtricity in Northern Ireland

Atlantic across Great Britain

Scottish Power

Scottish Power is offering customers a 'Winter Price Guarantee' and has pledged not to increase prices until April 2012 at the earliest.

As with most other providers, Scottish Power will also be carrying out a series of tariff checks and will write to customers who currently pay by cash or cheque giving them personalised quotes detailing how they can save money by switching to cheaper tariffs.

It is also offering flexible payment options which will allow customers to defer existing debt and ensure that all of the money they spend during the winter months will be on current fuel bills.

Vulnerable customers will be contacted to ensure that they have all the help needed to keep their homes running during the winter months and are also offering personal 'house-calls' from Community Liason Officers.

Scottish Power is also offering an insulation scheme that could provide eligible customers with free loft and cavity wall insulation.

For more information click here

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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Les Roberts

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