Energy companies need to prove they aren't ripping us all off

Rebecca Atkinson's picture

Good news for energy companies: profits among the biggest players are up, thanks to 
plummeting wholesale costs.

British Gas, the biggest player in the UK, looks set to achieve profit growth of 43% this year, while Scottish & Southern Energy, the UK’s second biggest energy supplier, 
revealed last month a 36% jump in profits to 
£410.5 million. E.ON, EDF Energy and npower also all look set to enjoy a healthy rise in profits.

While it’s refreshing to hear about companies doing well during the credit crunch, I for one won’t be 
cracking open the champagne (or should that be Cava?) to toast their success. In fact, it leaves an 
extremely bad taste in my mouth.

Energy bills increased by as 
much as 50% last year, when we customers were told that energy companies had no choice but to pass on higher wholesale costs. The past 12 months have seen suppliers enjoy significant respite from the crippling cost of oil, yet energy bills have barely shrunk, with 
thousands of customers only receiving a 4% reduction.

Worse, energy bills could spike by a shocking 60% over the next decade because of the need for energy suppliers to invest in infrastructure.

Of course, I know these companies are not charities, and in order for them to 
provide a good service to households they need to make a profit, but surely they could pass on some of their financial success to us? Not only that, what I’d also like to see is 
greater transparency, so we can all understand why bills had to rise so much last year – and fall by such a piddling amount in 2009.

The energy companies assure us they aren’t ripping us off and are helping customers reduce energy consumption. I say: put your money where your mouth is, and prove it!

Your Comments

I changed my energy supplier last December because I was disgusted that British Gas would only refund the amount I had in credit when it had reached £200, opting for Ebico because they seemed more ethical. I was not aware that Ebico subcontracted to EquiGas and Equipower, who in turn subcontracted to Southern Electric.

British Gas tempted me back by guaranteeing the lowest tracked energy rates. They took over the supply of gas and electricity on 10th July, the day I left to visit my mother in Cheshire. I made sure to turn off the mains but forgot to check the meters.

While I was away, Southern Electric emailed to advise me of my final bills which seemed to me excessive. They told me these were based on actual readings. Upon my return three months later, I discovered that both meters showed substantially less than Southern Electric had reported. British Gas only checked the gas meter on August 11th and charged me for usage when there couldn't have been any. They had underestimated the initial reading and billed me for actual consumption based only on one reading.

I have thus been overcharged twice by both companies for energy I did not use. I wrote to Southern Electric on 13th October querying this but have had no reply. In my follow up letter I am informing them that I will report them to the Office of Fair Trading if they fail to respond.

nPower will soon be taking over my energy supply. They have confirmed actual meter readings will be taken on the day, and fortunately on this occasion I will be at home to check.

It seems that this overcharging may not be a rare occurence. Representatives frequently call at people's houses trying to persuade them to change suppliers, and it is your advice to shop around for the best energy deals. It should be mandatory that actual meter readings are taken on the day of handover, and meter readers who fail to do this but make up a figure should be prosecuted.


Nearly 5 million households are expected to be in fuel poverty this winter (10% + of income spend on energy). There were 36,000 excess deaths last winter.
But the pricing policies of energy companies continue to disadvantage those who can least afford it. Scottish Power (for average energy usage) in this area charges a differential between on-line tariff customers and those on prepayment meters of £350pa (On-line tariff £931; PPM £1280).
The social tariffs offered are restrictive and often have limited benefits (EDF has a £37 annual rebate). So some customers in fuel poverty can get a social tariff, whilst others can’t.
Nevertheless it is worth checking if you can access a cheaper tariff with your current supplier.
And if you have internet access, then an on-line tariff will be the cheapest option, and could knock £150-£200pa off your bills.

Very true. Southern Electric are prone to either incompetence or sharp practice in verifying meter readings

If the energy companies want to prove to the country. That they are not ripping people of why don't they reduce their prices. Hell if they want to go even further do what the dutch government did. Give us all one LED 60 watt equivalent pharox bulb

There is something I want to add to my previous message.

nPower took over the supply of gas and electricity from British Gas on 23rd November. I have now received my final electricity bill from British Gas stating that there is a £30 cancellation fee. Of course I do not remember being told this when the British Gas telephone representative persuaded me to sign up with them and I regret I did not read the small print in the contract when it arrived. Now I am awaiting the final gas bill to see if there is a cancellation fee on that too. The nPower representative did not mention the possibilty that I would be charged a cancellation fee by British Gas when he talked me into joing nPower.

It looks to me like another money-making scam by the utility companies and I thought people should be aware of it.


Then you read articles about how the energy companies have been over-charging people and that leaves an even worst taste in your mouth.

Unfortunately loyalty is never the best option when it comes to utility companies (and also insurance and savings ...) . Your best option is to regularly review your tariff and supplier at least once a year. You will almost certainly will always be able to get a better option using one of the many comparison websites to do al the hard work for you.   Happy saving....

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