Martin Lewis: Energy bills crisis – DO NOTHING

Martin Lewis explains how to reduce your energy bills

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The energy market is in crisis; prices are rising, and energy firms are falling. No surprise many people are panicking and I’ve been swamped with questions, so let me run throughthe most common ones (my answers are correct at the time of writing).

Q: With prices rocketing, should I try to bag a cheaper deal? 

A: No. DO NOTHING – the energy price cap is the cheapest deal. The cap limits what providers can charge on their standard variable (default) tariffs.

There are no meaningfully cheaper switches available right now. 

You’ll be on the price cap, or AUTOMATICALLY moved to it, if: 

  • You’ve never switched.
  • Your cheap fix ends. 
  • Your provider goes bust and you’re moved to a new firm.

So do nowt and you’ll be on, or moved to, today’s cheapest deal.

The cheapest fixed tariff is 35 percent higher (around £450/year more for someone on typical bills).

My best guess is that’s too much of a premium for most to move right now, but check for yourself by doing a whole of market comparison, either via my www.cheapenergyclub.com or any Ofgem-accredited site (there’s a list at www.ofgem.gov.uk).

Q: I’ve heard the price cap is £1,277/yr, so is that the most I can pay? 

A: No. ‘Price cap’ is a stupid name – it’s more of a rate cap. There’s no maximum you can pay for your domestic energy.

The £1,277/yr figure is just what the cap would be for someone on the regulator’s defined ‘typical use’.

Q: Is it true the price cap will rise again in April?

A: Almost certainly yes, possibly by 30 percent or more. Each cap lasts six months – the current one finishes on March 31.

Think of it as a six-month fixed tariff you can leave at any time if, and hopefully when, other tariffs get cheaper.

Q: Does all this apply to the whole of the UK?

A: No – Northern Ireland has a different system. For more on that see www.consumercouncil.org.uk.

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Q: I’m comfortably in credit, but my firm’s hugely hiked my direct debit, is this fair?

A: It’s not fair if it’s out of proportion to the cost rise. As the price cap has risen 12 percent, if you’re on it, expect a similar direct debit hike. If you’re coming off a cheap fix and paying 30-40 percent more, expect that too.

Yet if you’re in credit and your direct debit is rising way above the rate rise, there’s an issue.

But you don’t have to accept it – you have a right to a fair direct debit under energy firm licence conditions.

First, do a meter reading, so any calculation is based on up-to-date usage. Once that’s processed, call and politely ask the firm to justify the hike. If it can’t, ask for the direct debit to be lowered.

Q: My energy firm has gone bust. How much more will I pay? 

A: For most on cheap fixes, shifting to the price cap will mean paying 10-40 percent more than you were before.

Though at least you saved in the meantime, and you’re now on the same rate you would’ve been on had you not switched. You can see a full list of the firms that havegone bust, who the new provider is, and the cost change at www.mse.me/EnergyShift.

Q: I’m really worried I can’t afford to pay my bills – what do I do? 

A: Emergency pandemic rules mean your supply can’t be cut off and prepay customers can get emergency credit. 

The best thing to do is communicate with your supplier, and let it know if you’re vulnerable.

It may be able to offer payment reviews, breaks or reductions. Check if you’re eligible for the £140 Warm Home Discount (available from bigger firms if you’re on the guaranteed element of pension credit or on a low income and getting certain benefits). 

Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com. To join the 7.5 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip.

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