Save money by switching suppliers
From November 2012, households on pre-payment energy meters can switch suppliers and get cheaper bills more easily thanks to new rules from energy regulator Ofgem.
Energy providers have agreed to extend the amount that a customer can be in debt to their energy company and still switch suppliers. The limit is being raised from £200 to £500.
The change will impact those customers who have been placed onto pre-payment meters because they have built up a debt to their supplier. Companies can insist on this method of payment as a means to prevent the debt growing further.
Customers in this position can find themselves trapped into paying higher rates because they are unable to switch to a cheaper supplier until the debt is reduce to below the £200 level. Pre-payment is more expensive than other payment methods and their is little competition to drive prices lower.
Ofgem said that there are currently more than 315,000 electricity and 320,000 gas prepayment meter customers who are in debt to their energy supplier.
On average they owe £357 for electricity and £371 for gas, according to the regulator, so a raise in the level a customer can be in debt and still switch from £200 to £500 should enable a large chunk of these customers to seek out cheaper deals.
The big six suppliers – npower, EDF Energy, Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, E.ON and British Gas – all agreed to changes which come into action from November 1.
Ofgem also reported that firms are giving customers more time to repay their debts as well as a fall in the overall number of people who are in repayment plans.
Comparing tarifs and electricity
My Home Energy Switch lets you compare all energy suppliers simply and quickly to make sure you're getting the best price for your gas and electricity.
Provided in partnership by the National Housing Federation and uSwitch.com, My Home Energy Switch gives housing association tenants and staff a free, impartial online or telephone comparison and switching service that helps you save up to £458* per annum on your gas and electricity bills.
Call 0800 015 5346 or visit www.myhomeenergyswitch.org.uk today for more details or to start switching and saving. You will need your annual bill, which shows how much energy you've used in the last 12 months.
While it is not possible to change your water supplier, it is possible to save money in a few different ways.
If you are a customer of United Utilities
United Utilities allows you to apply for a grant to cover current charges and any arrears. There are no strict qualifying criteria but you will need to tell them how much income you get, and what your outgoings are. They will also ask why you cannot afford the bill and how you intend to pay in future. Click here for more information about United Utilities grants.
United Utilities also operate a scheme called WaterSure that gives help to metered customers who use large amounts of water for essential purposes. This will cap the household water bill at the national annual average, provided you meet certain criteria.
For more information on WaterSure, click here
There is also a social tariff for people in receipt of certain benefits who are struggling to pay their water charges.
Quids In! magazine - advice on good financial choices for people on low incomes. The publication is overseen by the Bristol Financial Inclusion Taskforce to maximise its usefulness and to help ensure the content is appropriate. We are currently reviewing whether to purchase this magazine for tenants. You can view a sample of the magazine here.