Fixed-price energy tariffs

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Fixed-price energy tariffs are the best way to lock your energy bills down for one or two years. You can use a fixed-rate energy deal to make sure you’re not at the mercy of a fluctuating market if the price per unit looks like it'll go up.

Fixed-rate deals usually last between 12 and 24 months, but they don’t mean your bill will be the same each month. You lock down the price you pay per unit, but not how many units you consume. The more energy you use in a month, the more you’ll pay – the same as ever.

The other main type of energy deal is the standard variable-rate tariff. These allow for market changes, so a surge in global energy prices can mean higher bills than expected – but if the prices fall, you’ll be paying less.;

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Cheaper than variable-rate tariffs (usually):

Fixed-rate tariffs are often cheaper than variable-rate deals, though you may pay a premium for the security of signing a longer deal at a set rate

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Protect yourself from price hikes:

Oil and gas prices can spin on a dime, but they can be very attractive indeed when they’re low. Fixed tariffs let you take advantage of favourable market conditions

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Control your monthly spend:

Because you know how much each unit will cost, you can take control of your bills. If you end up with an expensive month, you’ll know you need to cut back on usage

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Locked-in pricing in a falling market:

The flipside to being protected from price hikes is that you won’t benefit if energy costs come down on global markets, as your unit price won’t change

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Exit fees if you change your mind:

You might face exit fees if you decide to switch before the end of your contract. Not all fixed tariffs have them, but those that do will charge between around £10 to £30 per fuel

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You need to act before the deal ends:

If you do nothing when your fixed term comes to an end, you’ll more than likely be switched to your supplier’s standard variable-rate tariff – which will probably be quite expensive

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Are fixed-rate tariffs cheap?

Fixed-rate tariffs ultimately depend on the conditions of the energy market – if wholesale prices are high, fixed deals will be less attractive. Generally speaking though, if market conditions are good and you shop around, a fixed-rate tariff will be better value than a variable-rate one.

What happens at the end of a fixed-rate tariff?

When your fixed-rate agreement comes to an end, your supplier will probably switch you over to a standard variable-rate tariff, meaning your prices will no longer be fixed. And while variable tariffs can be good value, they’re often less economical than the fixed tariffs they replace. It’s always worth shopping around a month or two before your fixed tariff comes to an end.

Are there any hidden charges or exit fees when switching?

If you’re on a fixed-term tariff, you might have to pay an exit fee if you switch – it depends on the tariff you have (you’ll find details on your supplier’s website, on your bill, or in your welcome pack). But even if you’re on a tariff that imposes exit fees, these cannot be charged if you’re within 49 days of the tariff’s end date.

Your provider will write to you when your tariff is coming to an end so that you have six weeks or so to find another tariff.

If you decide to switch earlier and your tariff imposes exit charges, you will have to pay for each fuel. So if the tariff has a £30 exit fee and you’re switching both gas and electricity, you’ll pay £60.

Exit fees vary according to the tariff, but it’s always important to make sure that the amount you save by switching is greater than the amount you pay in fees to your old supplier.

What is the cheapest energy tariff on the market?

The amount you pay for your energy will depend how much you use. The prices you see quoted are based on average consumption as defined by Ofgem, the market regulator.

The cheapest tariff on the market will usually be a fixed-rate, fixed-term dual fuel (gas and electricity) deal, paid monthly by direct debit.

Note that it is the price per unit of energy that is fixed – the amount you pay will vary in line with your usage. 

With a variable rate tariff, the rate per unit can go up or down, leaving you vulnerable to price hikes.

Variable rate deals are also known as ‘default’ tariffs. If you are on a fixed-term deal and do not switch at the end of the term, you will move to your supplier’s default tariff. If you haven’t switched for a few years, or ever, you’re likely to be on a default tariff

Fixed-rate tariffs tend to be cheaper than variable rate alternatives, usually by a significant margin. According to Ofgem, the cheapest dual fuel tariff in June 2019 cost £873 a year, while the average price of dual fuel variable rate tariffs from the ‘big six’ energy suppliers was £1,254 – a difference of £381.

What is the energy price cap?

There are two price caps – one for standard variable rate or default tariffs, and one for prepayment tariffs. These are calculated and managed by Ofgem and limit the amount that suppliers can charge their customers.

The caps are reviewed every six months. In April 2020 the cap for variable rate deals was set at £1,179, while for prepayment tariffs it came in at £1,127. 

There is no cap on fixed tariff prices.

Can you switch tariff from a prepayment meter?

It is possible to switch from a prepayment meter to a credit meter if you are not in debt to your current provider.  You might have to go through a credit check.

Some suppliers charge a fee to change your meter, but there are plenty who don’t, so it’s worth shopping around for the best deal.

If you are unable to switch from your prepayment meter, you may be able to switch to a cheaper prepayment tariff. 

A quick price comparison will show you the suppliers that could save you money.

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