Tag Archives: energy

Press Release: Money doesn’t always buy you the best energy supplier, warns Citizens Advice

Ahead of Ofgem’s price cap increase, the latest edition of the Citizens Advice star rating (http://bit.ly/CitizensAdviceStarRating) – which ranks domestic energy suppliers on customer service – reveals that money doesn’t always buy good service.

Citizens Advice analysis shows expensive doesn’t always mean good and cheap doesn’t always mean bad. Of the 20 cheapest deals with energy suppliers, only five tariffs are with suppliers in the bottom third of the star rating table, whereas 10 tariffs are with suppliers in the top third.

With the energy price cap having been increased by £96 to £1,138 from 1st April 2021 for default tariff customers, the charity is encouraging people to consider switching suppliers to get a better deal. Doing so could save an average household up to £200 a year and secure a supplier with better customer service.

Citizens Advice research shows that nearly a quarter of energy customers – equivalent to over six million households – are worried they’ll struggle to pay their energy bills because of the pandemic. With bigger winter bills arriving in the coming weeks for many customers, it’s critical that people are able to easily access support from their supplier. The charity is calling on poor performers in the star rating table to improve their customer service – including tackling billing errors and difficulty in contacting suppliers.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“At a time when so many people are facing job losses and financial trouble, it’s unacceptable that energy bills are another source of stress. With the rise in the energy price cap, many will have to pay more and rightly expect a decent service. Suppliers must step up to give their customers what they deserve.

“Everyone should consider whether they are getting value for money from their supplier – paying more doesn’t always mean you will receive a better service. Don’t put up with it if it’s not good enough. Shop around if you can.”

Case Study:

A dad-of-two started receiving high energy bills when the family moved home in May last year, but his energy company didn’t respond when he tried to question the amounts.

He said:

“In October, I got a bill for £3,000 too much. I contacted the Citizens Advice consumer service and they helped me put in a formal complaint. The bill was sorted and everything was okay.

“Unbelievably, in January this year, another bill came for £650. I was so shocked. I have been contacting the company since January and no one has called me back or replied to my email.

“I’m so frustrated at the amount of time I’ve spent chasing, and nothing has been done. I thought it had been resolved.”

Price cap rise will be ‘heavy blow’ to household finances already hit by Covid

From 1 April 2021, Ofgem will introduce a new increase in the energy price cap, which will see it increase by £96 for default tariff customers, and by £87 for pre-payment meter customers.

According to Ofgem, default tariffs and pre-payment meters are already some of the more expensive energy options, and research shows that pre-payment meter customers are more likely to be living in fuel poverty.

However, Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, adds that this rise not only comes during a “tough jobs market and essential bills rising”, but also the rise will come “at the same time as the £20 a week increase to the benefit is set to end”. The £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is set to end on April 5.

To visualise the twinned effect of the price rise and the cut to the Universal Credit boost, the £20 uplift would cover nearly a whole week (six days) energy costs for a below average income household.

Indeed, in December, Citizens Advice research showed that 2.1 million households were behind on their energy bills, 600,000 more than in February 2020. That was with the reduced energy price cap and the £20 uplift. This could affect many of our clients, because since 1 March 2020, Citizens Advice has supported more than 350,000 people with Universal Credit.

As such, Nicky Wilshire argues that “now is not the time for the government to cut this vital lifeline”.

Private renters in poor quality homes face £1,000 higher costs to heat their homes

Three quarters of a million private renters are stuck in the coldest and draughtiest homes, new Citizens Advice analysis reveals.

To heat their homes to a comfortable standard, these tenants face spending £1,000 more than the national average on their energy bills – but are reliant on landlords to make cost-saving improvements.

Citizens Advice analysis reveals landlords could be raking in almost a quarter of a billion (£242 million) per month for letting out homes that will be freezing cold in the winter.

Some 750,000 private tenants are thought to be living in over 300,000 properties in England with the worst energy efficiency ratings of F and G. These renters face more problems with damp, lack of central heating and poor insulation.

Renters living in band F and G homes:

  • Are twice as likely to suffer from damp than any other properties
  • Half a million have no access to central heating or storage heaters
  • Nearly two thirds have no wall insulation
  • Less than half have modern condensing boilers, which have been mandatory for any new or replacement installations since 2005

The average private rent for F and G band properties in England is £174 per week. In addition to this, energy bills are often very expensive in these homes.

Those currently living in the lowest, G rated, properties face spending £2,600 a year to keep warm – more than twice as high as the national average (£1,210), according to research from the Association for the Conservation of Energy.

The Energy Act 2011 introduced a legal requirement for all rented properties to have an energy efficient rating of at least Band E by 2020. All new tenancies must meet Band E standards by 2018.

However, regulations introduced last year means landlords don’t have to take any action that costs them an upfront fee.

Citizens Advice says the government should make landlords carry out improvements costing less than £5,000 that will take homes up to the minimum Band E standard. It also says a new fund – paid for by the stamp duty levy – could be set up to help landlords pay for more expensive improvements.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Thousands of private tenants face a bleak winter in cold and draughty homes.”

“Not only do they suffer more problems with damp and poor heating, these private renters also pay way over the odds on energy bills to keep warm. But with private tenants footing the cost of heating, landlords have little incentive to make upgrades.”

“Our research reveals that many landlords still have a long way to go to bring the worst energy wasting homes up to scratch – so it’s vital the government takes action to insist that all landlords who can afford to – raise standards in the homes they let.”

“If people are happy to take on the role of a landlord – they need to be responsible enough to make sure the property is safe, comfortable and fairly priced.”

Citizens Advice also proposes setting up a new energy improvement fund to help landlords with improvements costing more than £5,000. This fund would be paid for by increasing the stamp duty levy on buy-to-let homes to 4%. This would raise over £200 million to be used for efficiency improvements. The fund could also incentivise landlords to make further improvements that would take their property rating up to Band C.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Ipswich Citizens Advice added:

“Next week Citizens Advice Ipswich will be taking part in Big Energy Savings Week to encourage people to check fuel usage and take action where necessary. Private renters are often at a disadvantage as to tariffs or the quality of heating systems. Citizens Advice can help them work out what steps they can take to avoid or minimise fuel poverty.”