This month heralds the start of the school summer holidays, which sees parents and grandparents across the UK hoping the sun will make an appearance or perhaps looking forward to jetting off to more exotic climes instead.
Thoughts of warmer weather probably mean energy bills have slipped to the bottom of your mind. But now is in fact the perfect time to get your gas and leccy sorted.
This is because the last of the first round of Big Six energy price hikes comes into force this month, with SSE upping prices by an average 6.7% from 11 July.
Price rises, of course, are never welcome – particularly from energy providers, which always seem to announce increases one after another like toppling dominoes. But once they’ve all taken effect, you have a level playing field once more to compare prices.
Last year, 5.1 million electricity consumers and 4.1 million gas users switched supplier, the highest number for almost a decade, according to energy regulator Ofgem.
And it seems a large proportion of these switchers are Moneywise readers, 48% of whom said in a recent poll on Moneywise.co.uk that they always switch as soon as their current contract ends.
However, there are still those who are put off switching by the perceived hassle – nearly one in 10 (11%) who voted in our poll said it was too much hassle to switch.
It’s partly for this reason that by the end of the year, households should be paid an automatic £30 in compensation when a switch goes wrong.
Problems covered by the compensation payouts, which will be paid for each problem encountered, include being mistakenly switched to another supplier, known as an ‘erroneous transfer’, or switches taking longer than 21 days to complete.
Automatic payouts could also be triggered by suppliers that are late in sending final bills or refunding credit balances to customers who are leaving.
The regulator is also looking to introduce one-day energy switching to make the process smoother, reducing the waiting time from the current two to three weeks. This won’t, however, be in place until 2020.
It’s positive to see this intervention to improve the energy-switching process for consumers, although we know that there are still areas of the market that aren’t working well.
When it comes to smart meters, for example, while the initiative is a good one in that it’s designed to help households reduce their energy usage and to provide more accurate bills, it doesn’t seem to have been rolled out well. Moneywise readers have been in touch because they felt pressured into getting smart meters and were wrongly told that they were compulsory. Meanwhile, most providers have only installed first-generation smart meters – known as SMETS1 meters – which can stop working if you switch supplier.
So while the energy market is being slowly cleaned up, there’s still a long way to go.
If you’ve got a gripe about your supplier, don’t rest on your laurels; complain. You first need to contact the supplier. If you’re unhappy with its response or you don’t get a satisfactory one within eight weeks, you can take your case to the free Energy Ombudsman arbitration service.
The teachers inspiring the next generation about finance
The winning primary and secondary school teachers in our Personal Finance Teacher of the Year Awards have been revealed, while a third teacher has been recognised for her efforts in teaching children with learning difficulties about money.
Thank you to all the teachers who entered and to everyone who nominated a teacher, it’s inspiring to see the great work that’s being carried out to help educate the next generation.
Of course, as I’ve written previously in my editor’s column, financial education isn’t just the responsibility of teachers – it’s up to all of us to ensure children get to grips with money matters. A good place to start is our Get Financial Education Working hub.