Energy prices frozen for winter – but you could save hundreds more by switching

8 December 2016
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Three of the Big Six energy suppliers have mirrored the cold weather by freezing energy bills for some of their customers this winter.

But even if your bills are frozen, you should check to see if you could save more money by switching.

 

Of the Big Six energy suppliers, British Gas, E.on and SSE have confirmed price freezes. Here’s what you need to know:

  • British Gas – In its words, bills will “remain unchanged” until “at least the end of March 2017”. This freeze applies to those on its standard variable tariff, including prepayment customers - those who pay for their energy in advance using a meter.
  • E.on – Its price freeze is in effect until “at least” April 2017. The freeze applies to those on its E.on EnergyPlan, which is its standard variable tariff. This also applies to its prepayment customers on a standard variable tariff. 
  • SSE – Has frozen standard variable prices until April 2017 – a move which also applies to its prepayment customers.

 

Fellow Big Six providers EDF, Npower, and Scottish Power have yet to announce price freezes, when asked, they all simply said they “regularly review prices”.

However, energy providers tend to follow what the rest of the pack is doing. Gillian Guy, chief executive of charity Citizens Advice, says: “Given three of the largest suppliers have been able to do so [freeze prices], we expect the rest to follow suit.”

You could save £200 by switching

A freeze is welcome news if you’re worried prices might rise this winter. But if you’re on a standard variable tariff in the first place you’re likely to be paying over the odds.

The average standard variable tariff across the Big Six providers is £1,062 a year (for those who pay by direct debit), according to price comparison website uSwitch.com.

But the cheapest plan on the market for an average user is £858 a year (paying by direct debit) – a £204 annual difference. This deal is also fixed for 12 months giving price certainty for longer than just the winter.

Of course, energy prices vary depending on where you live and how much you use; so it’s vital you use an energy comparison tool to check the cheapest tariff for your needs.

 

Claire Osborne, energy expert at Uswitch, says: “Standard variable tariff price freezes may look good on paper, but in reality they could lull consumers into a false sense of security. The fact remains that consumers on standard deals could be overpaying for their energy by an eye-watering £200 a year. These customers should switch to a competitive fixed rate tariff, which also gives protection for longer against any future price rises.”

Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, adds: “These price freezes only affect standard variable prices which remain amongst the most expensive tariffs, so consumers should still consider switching to a cheaper fixed deal.”

However, Ms Guy argues that more still needs to be done to prevent standard variable customers from paying over the odds for energy. She says: “A longer-term solution is still needed to tackle the higher costs loyal customers pay year after year on the standard tariff. One way the government could tackle this would be to make suppliers switch people who are on a low income and have been on the standard tariff for a number of years to a cheaper deal.”
 

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