Categories
Latest News Laws Topical Utilities water and energy ways to save money

Energy companies under scrutiny for Direct Debit hikes

On 3 May the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng announced that Ofgem will undertake a series of “market compliance reviews”. These are to include a “stricter supervision of how direct debits are handled” by suppliers. The Government announced that some energy suppliers were hiking the prices of Direct Debits by more than is necessary. In some cases customers are seeing double or even triple their previous monthly payments.

Ofgem has given energy companies three weeks to explain what they have been/are doing or face punishment. In the first instance Ofgem prefers to work with companies to bring a resolution to issues. However, it does have the power to fine companies, according to Ofgem’s Compliance and Enforcement website page.

Kwarteng has said “The regulator will not hesitate to swiftly enforce compliance, including issuing substantial fines.” It would be good to see these companies fined and the money put back into the pockets of consumers!

radiator

Ofgem chief speaks out

The energy price cap rose by 54% – or on average £700 – to £1,971 a year. They are expected to rise again in October.

Just two weeks after this rise, Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, said the regulator was seeing “troubling signs” that some companies were allowing customer service levels to deteriorate, and that concerns were raised by consumers and consumer organisations that some energy companies “may have been increasing direct debit payments by more than is necessary, or directing customers to tariffs that may not be in their best interest”.

It would appear that energy companies are profiteering. Brearley has said that some suppliers have been using the extra money “to prop up their finances, enabling them to follow more risky business models”. He also said that “Customer credit balances should only be used to reconcile bills, not as a source of risk-free capital.”

Citizens Advice calls for action

Citizens Advice star rating research released on the 8 April 2022  showed that “energy suppliers’ customer service is the worst it’s been on average since 2017. It comes a week on from the rise in the energy price cap “. The research showed that time waiting on the phone and for responses to emails are on the increase.

If a consumer is struggling to pay their energy bills, suppliers are responsible for providing support, such as affordable payment plans. But Citizens Advice is concerned that “many could be missing out on help they’re entitled to because they’re unable to easily contact their supplier.”

The charity calls on Ofgem to “… introduce a ‘consumer duty’ to ensure suppliers provide a service specifically designed to meet the needs of all customers.” and adds that “A similar approach is being adopted by the Financial Conduct Authority to upgrade consumer protection. It should make companies directly responsible for the outcomes their customers experience. This includes making it easy to contact companies and get support when needed.”

The shocking customer service currently being provided adds to people’s worries about bills and demonstrates that energy companies are cutting corners and not investing in supporting consumers through this difficult time.

Check your  energy bills

It’s easy to check your bills. Look at your previous bills and estimate how much you would expect to pay with the 54% rise. If you think the new Direct Debit amount is excessive then write to your energy company and complain. Ask it to lower the Direct Debit amount to a figure that you provide and include your own calculation. Then keep an eye on your consumption, taking a reading each month, so you don’t get any nasty surprises further down the line.

To calculate your bill: Take the price of electricity or gas per unit (KW/h) divided by 100 and multiply that by the consumption of the energy used. Add the cost of the standing charge, as the number of days multiplied by the daily charge, then add the VAT, which for energy is currently 5%.

So for example:

1) Pence per KW/h/100 x consumption 18.5/100) x 315.5 + £58.37
2) Days x daily standing charge 63 x 0.223 + £14.05
3) Sub total = £72.42
4) VAT @ 5% + £  3.62
5) Grand Total = £76.04

 

If you have a day and night rate, also perform the same check for the night rate.

If you have both electricity and gas then repeat the check for your gas bill too.

Check the reading

If your supplier has used estimated readings for a long time, it could be that your bill is significantly wrong. Take accurate readings and submit them to your supplier.

Don’t pay the estimated bill. Instead, send correct readings to your supplier who will provide an accurate bill. It could work in your favour, as you may have paid too much and be in credit. But do remember it could also go the other way!

Check the Direct Debit

Your Direct Debit amount should be the same each month/quarter and your supplier must inform you if it will change. If it doesn’t inform you, you can complain to your bank under the Direct Debit guarantee. The bank should then put you back into the position you were before the increase.

 

With these simple checks you can ensure that you stay in control of your energy bills.

 

Further help with energy costs and issues

Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

 

More on energy All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

 

 

 

 

How to sort out gas and electricity problems without draining your energy: 20 tips from our Consumer Fightback column – lots of information in my This Is Money column

Help with your complaints

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

101 Habits if an Effective complainer book cover with logo

 

101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purchase downloadable templates to gain redress

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Latest News Topical ways to save money

10 Tips for saving money on food – Stop Food Waste day

Today (27/04/22) is Stop Food Waste day.

Whilst we will live through the ever growing cost of living crisis, we need to be saving money where we can as well as the planet.

Kate Hall is a Food Waste Expert and Founder of The Full Freezer.   and has written this helpful blog post to do just that.

1. Make sure your fridge is cold enough

Did you know, making sure your fridge is 5°C or colder can help foods such as milk, fruit and veg last as many as three days longer? Grab yourself a fridge thermometer to check the temperature if there isn’t one inbuilt, and check your appliance instructions to make sure you’ve got your fridge working properly (they should be online if you haven’t got the paper copy)!

Also never leave your fridge door open for longer than necessary, and don’t ever put warm or hot food in it.

2. Understand date labels

In the UK, packaged foods will usually be labelled with a ‘Use By’ or a ‘Best Before’ date. Whilst ‘Use By’ dates are there for our safety, and foods should not be consumed after these dates, ‘Best Before’ is purely there as a guide on quality. So, if your food has a Best Before and it looks and smells okay, don’t bin it!

picture of Chinese takeaway food laid out on plates on table

3. Store your food properly

Some foods can cause others to go off faster, and how you store your foods can also impact their shelf-life. For example, potatoes and onions should both be stored in a cool, dark place, but never together! It’s also a good idea to store your bananas (and any cut flowers!) away from other fruits, as they give off ethylene gas which will make other fruits ripen faster. If your food is packaged, always check the pack for guidance on how best to store it.

4. Love your leftovers

Leftovers can often end up straight in the bin, or stuffed in the fridge for a few days before chucking them. A couple of things you can do to make better use of them are:
1) Serve smaller portions and go back for seconds rather than loading your plate up – that way you have leftovers, not plate waste
2) Cool any leftovers within 2 hours (1 hour for rice), then cover and refrigerate to keep them safe to eat
3) Eat leftovers within 48 hours, and if you know you won’t eat them, freeze them for another day!

5. Check what you’ve got, then make a list and stick to it

If you’re going to the shops, make sure you always check your fridge, cupboards and freezer before you go. It can be tempting to buy things out of habit, or because they’re on offer, but if your budget is being squeezed, things you have in stock are the things you can easily cut out. By having a plan and a list, it’s much easier to ensure you don’t go off course and buy far more than you need.

6. Be a yellow-sticker hero

Most shops will reduce products an hour or so before they close, if not earlier. Ask in your local shop if there’s a standard time for reductions, and be proud to shop yellow-sticker. By buying these foods, you save yourself money but you’re also saving the foods (and packaging!) from going into landfill. Save food, save money, save the planet – what’s not to love!

7. Get ‘appy’

There are some brilliant apps out there which help to ensure food doesn’t go to waste, and this can often mean getting some substantially reduced goodies. Check out Olio and Too Good to Go for stacks of food you can lay claim to today.

8. Make Intentional Leftovers & ‘Bulk Out’ Your Meals

A great way of making the best use of your ingredients is to make intentional leftovers. If you’re making a meal that you love, simply double up the quantity and freeze half. If you are a meat eater, instead of doubling up the meat, add extra veggies and pulses (such as lentils) to bulk the dish out.

Cool within 2 hours, then freeze in usable portions. I like to freeze flat in freezer bags as this allows me to fit more in my freezer, protects the food effectively and is quick to defrost.

9. Buy frozen

If you often end up wasting leftover ingredients (particularly veggies), be sure to check out your supermarket’s frozen food aisle. Whilst some frozen foods will be more expensive than fresh, they will last much longer, so you’re less likely to waste them. There are also some ingredients (such as spinach), which works out far cheaper than buying fresh.

10. Learn to freeze

And if you’re not keen on buying shop-frozen foods, consider freezing your own! The average UK family wastes over £700 a year throwing away food that could have been eaten, often because they simply didn’t get to it in time. Your freezer allows you to press a pause button on that food; and you don’t even need to batch cook! Most foods can be frozen as single individual ingredients, and can then be cooked with straight from frozen. If you would like to learn more about doing this, please check out my bio below.

About the author

Kate Hall head shot young female long dark hair light green topKate Hall is a Food Waste Expert and Founder of The Full Freezer.

Kate helps busy households to reduce their food waste and cook from scratch more easily by using their home freezers more effectively. Unlike batch cooking, The Full Freezer Method is completely flexible and allows families to easily enjoy a wide variety of meals.

Kate has been featured by BBC Food & BBC Radio, and has appeared live on Channel 4’s ‘Steph’s Packed Lunch’ sharing her food waste hacks. She has also appeared in publications including Prima magazine, The Telegraph and Fabulous magazine.

To find out more about how you could reduce your food waste and save money follow Kate @TheFullFreezer:

www.instagram.com/thefullfreezer

www.facebook.com/groups/thefullfreezer

Listen to Kate’s tips

I gave these tips on BBC Radio London

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0c3r61b