It is not news to know that the UK is currently in a recession, the topic of the effects it is having on the other hand does not seem to stray far from the paths of headlines.
Over recent months, we have witnessed strikes from some of our most essential services – ongoing walk-outs from rail staff, Royal Mail, and public services, right through to NHS ambulance drivers, the cost of living has been at the forefront of their campaign. Why? These essential service workers claim that they simply cannot afford to heat their homes any longer.
While the salary negotiations in these sectors are out of our control, we want to offer what advice we can to help take the pressure off people’s shoulders. This is why when we found out that people are being overcharged on their already rising energy bills, we had to find out what was going on and what you need to look out for.
Check your direct debit charges
Many pay their energy bill by a fixed direct debit – you will pay a fixed amount each month based on your energy suppliers’ prediction of usage for the year ahead.
Most firms will take the average amount you have used in previous years and calculate your year ahead and monthly payments from this.
Despite the rise in bills, energy customers are seeing their direct debits rise far more than the actual inflation percentage – even being in credit hasn’t helped with seeing a decrease in payments.
If your fixed direct debit amount has been upped even though you have reduced your usage, you can request that your fixed fee is reduced. Before doing this, work out how much your usage should be costing you by using an energy calculator.
Your monthly amount should be reasonable, if you don’t think it is you can raise a complaint with your supplier. If you’re not happy with the outcome you can take it to the Energy Ombudsman to dispute.
Check the health of your boiler
Some people are tempted to ignore the little things that may seem off with a boiler in fear of it costing a fortune to get an engineer out.
Be careful though, those little things could be adding large costs to your bills. You might notice a little drip coming from your boiler or it could be making a bit of an irregular sound every so often – catching what might be just an inconvenience early could save hundreds of pounds in repairs and incorrect usage on bills if the problem turns out much bigger than you anticipated.
Make sure you are getting what you are paying for
A lot of older thermostats can start to fall behind in giving accurate temperature readings – you could be paying for heating at 18 degrees when it is actually only 16 degrees. The two-degree difference makes a massive difference in bills with some energy users saving up to £100 a year by reducing their thermostat by a singular degree.
Put a thermometer next to the thermostat to check the reading is the same. If your thermostat is out of sync then you could try to fix it manually, or you might need an engineer to come out and fix or replace it.
Alternatively, another savvy trick we have seen on a Facebook Energy Saving Tip group is moving your thermostat completely. If you have a wireless thermostat, move it to the room you occupy the most or somewhere you find comfortable in your home – your boiler will try to heat the area your thermostat is in until it reaches its desired temperature. If your thermostat is in a cold area in your house such as the hallway, it will take longer to warm up meaning your heating will be on longer than it has to.
It was recently reported that a pensioner was being overcharged by his energy provider because his meter was in fact running faster than it should be.
Realising his bills were steeper than anticipated, the person contacted their provider and requested for an engineer to come and look at their meter – the engineer established that the meter was running 10% faster.
They have since had a smart meter installed, but were in a compensation battle with the provider for months. Since receiving their overcharge payments back and compensation, they have warned people to check their own meters in case the same happens to them.
A spokesperson for Citizens Advice said “If your meter is faulty, your supplier should replace the meter.
“They should also refund you any money they owe you as a result of the fault, for example, extra money you paid on a bill.”
If you don’t ask, you don’t get
Energy providers are seemingly offering more support programmes than what has been let on in the past few months – understandably they don’t want to be at risk of spending big money either. Still, it doesn’t mean not prioritising their customers. Those who are treated well by a company will be more likely to return.
You might have heard about the Warm Home Discount, available to those on low incomes, but you might not have known that some suppliers are even offering free white goods to customers to help out.
Don’t be afraid to ask your supplier what help they are offering to customers. The worst they can do is say they are not offering any support, it might be frustrating, but you’ve not lost anything in asking. If they do say yes, great news!
British Gas is currently offering people (customer or not) up to £1,500 if they have energy debt to help them pay their bills – Check out the British Gas Energy Trust Individuals and Family Fund for more information.
Utilita is offering customers who receive the Warm Home Discount white goods appliances worth up to £400, other suppliers offering support include EDF, E.ON and E.ON Next, Octopus Energy, OVO Energy, Scottish Power and more. Speak to your provider and find out how they can help you.
We understand these are not the solutions people need right now. Times are difficult for many in the UK, but what we do find out, we will do our best to inform you or advise where we can.
Barings Law is proud to make help accessible to all, which is why we are also currently helping businesses across the UK to claim compensation for being overcharged on energy bills due to hidden commission charges from brokers.
If you own a business and think you are overpaying due to hidden commissions and would like to speak to one of our customer service agents to find out how Barings Law can help your business, give us a call on 0161 200 9960 or click the icon at the bottom right of this page to start a webchat.