Energy bills set to fall?

With energy bills having soared in recent years, many consumers are finding it difficult to meet payments. For those in debt, the higher cost of heati…

With energy bills having soared in recent years, many consumers are finding it difficult to meet payments. For those in debt, the higher cost of heating and lighting can only add to their woes.

This may have been helped a little by small cuts made by energy suppliers earlier this year, but the government has now struck a deal with the big six energy suppliers – who provide power for 99 per cent of Britons – that will see them contact all their customers every year and advise them if they are on the cheapest available tariff and if not, what they could switch to in order to save money.

And those who are classed as vulnerable – like people eligible for the Warm Front scheme – will be contacted twice a year.

Announcing the measure, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: "Right now, seven out of ten customers are on the wrong tariff for their needs, so are paying too much. Yet people rarely switch, despite the fact some families could save up to £100 a year. There are currently over 120 different tariffs, making it very difficult to know where to start."

He said the government is also working with consumer groups to help people club together to switch providers in order to get the best deals and said investigations are being made into the possibility of having barcodes on bills that, when scanned, can supply more information on getting the best tariff.

Such measures might make a difference and do something to lower bills and perhaps debts, although for those owing large amounts of money, more help may be required.

The announcement was warmly received by consumer groups and price comparison websites, with director of customer policy at uSwitch Ann Robinson calling it "the step change in thinking that we've all been waiting for".

Consumer Focus was also pleased, with director of energy at the site Audrey Gallacher stating that some of the new announcements are "long overdue", although she added that more transparency on billing from utility firms is also needed.

By James Francis

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