The announcement today of the 54% rise in the price cap for energy bills will undoubtedly lead to a wave of concern from people worried about making ends meet.
In the last few months Resolver has seen a significant increase in complaints about energy, with a 25% jump in complaints from October to November 2021, when wholesale prices first began to rocket. In January 2022 alone, 2,280 people sought help – an increase of 21% on December.
When people are concerned about making ends meet, they tend to scrutinise their bills closely – and that in turn increases the volume of complaints about a range of subjects. Worryingly, Resolver’s analysis of energy complaints data reveals that a third of over 20,000 cases made in the last 12 months were from people who could be considered to be ‘vulnerable’, although the complaints Resolver helps sort out are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about energy that people using Resolver have raised in the last few weeks, along with tips and solutions to the problems.
The price caps are the limits to what energy firms can charge people on their standard tariffs. These are often referred to as ‘default’ tariffs, reflecting what most people end up paying by default – often due to confusion over the options available. Today’s announcement confirms the average household bill will increase by 54% or £693 a year.
However, you could end up paying much more than the ‘average’ prices you’ll see in the media as the cap is set per unit – it’s not a cap on the total amount you might be billed. It’s estimated that 22 million people are affected but ultimately, we will all pay more.
The reasons for this are complicated – from the price of wholesale gas to geopolitical conflict, increased demand and even supplying and storing energy itself. The price cap comes in to play in April – which is also when other big increases will occur on everything from broadband to tax too.
There are a range of things you can do if you’re struggling to pay your bills but the most important thing is to speak up as soon as possible. Ofgem, the energy regulator, has rules that say energy providers must work with you to come up with an affordable plan – but you have to be prepared to give them a bit of information about your circumstances in order to do so. These solutions might include:
You may have heard of help and support for older people or people who might be vulnerable. The Priority Services Register is a free support service to help all kinds of people who might need this support. You need to contact your energy provider to get on the list but it’s free to do so.
You can find out more about the various schemes available to help you in Resolver’s article about help in paying your energy bills.
Ofgem has a ‘safety net’ for people affected when their energy company goes bust. Around 25 energy companies collapsed in the wake of wholesale price increases in the last few months, which means millions of people will have found themselves with a new energy provider, new bills and plenty of questions.
As soon as a business goes bust the process will begin. You are allowed to cancel your direct debit after a transfer to the new provider but, in theory, you shouldn’t have to do anything.
Switching is ordinarily a great way to save money and Resolver recommends you do this to save cash. In the past, switching energy providers could save you up to £300 a year. But the fact of the matter is switching isn’t possible right now – and even if it were, the best advice would be to stay put, at least for the time being.
You can still switch to save money with other services though, from broadband to insurance. And there are lots of other ways to save some cash to counter the rise in energy prices. Check out Resolver’s guide to claiming back some cash.
Worryingly, we’re hearing a lot of complaints from people who have existing credit balances with suppliers who have gone bust but are being told they are ‘missing’. We understand that this is really troubling, but don’t forget that Ofgem say these credit balances are protected.
Often it’s just a case of waiting for the new provider to locate the balance. However, you can make a complaint and go to the Energy Ombudsman if you don’t hear anything. You could also go to the administrator of the old energy provider too. You can find this firm through searching for the old provider on most search drives. Watch out for dodgy firms offering to help you find your balance for a fee.
By far the biggest source of complaint at the moment is from people being billed huge amounts for their energy consumption, often after a supplier switch. It’s clear from many of the complaints we’ve seen that there’s obviously a problem as the consumption isn’t realistic or feasible.
If this happens to you, report the meter or readings as faulty. If your previous or current supplier has been working off estimates for a long time or not recording your readings, then you may be able to appeal the bill even if the meter is correct. Go through your bills and check when the meter was last read properly. See if you have records of your readings and when you gave them too.
It makes sense to photo your meter whenever you read it so you have a back up – and with prices so high, to give a reading to the energy firm whenever you can. But if all else fails, you can make a formal complaint to the business and go to the Ombudsman if they don’t sort things out.
Your energy provider may ask you to do daily meter readings for seven days to see if there’s an obvious problem. But ultimately, if the readings make no sense, it’s for the energy firm to sort out the problem. This can involve sending out engineers to assess the meter’s performance or even a forensic analysis of your bills.
Many of the people who have contacted Resolver with concerns about their energy bills are older or struggling financially. If you know someone in this situation, then pop round and check on them.
You don’t need a Power of Attorney to help someone with a complaint. Just contact the energy firm and ask the holder of the bill to confirm that the business is allowed to talk to you about the problem. You can also be authorised as a ‘third party’ to act on someone’s behalf in writing too, including by email. Save some time by checking with the firm first though – and have a bill handy. Call volumes will be high so you don’t want to get through and be sent off to get documents.
There are loads of support schemes available through your energy provider. These can result in discounts to bills through the Priority Services Register.
There are also a range of charities that provide support and advice for people who might be more vulnerable to energy price rises or financial difficulties. But never has it been more important to support people who need help the most in your local community. So why not keep checking in on your neighbours and help them with making their homes more energy efficient.
Resolver can help you make a complaint for free about anything energy related, from incorrect billing to switching errors. Get started at Resolver.co.uk.
There is a free Energy Ombudsman too if you still aren’t happy. We’ll automatically refer you to them if your complaint isn’t sorted out.