FAQ

General Questions

  1. What are thePeoplesPower collective energy switches?
  2. Are you making money from the collective switch? How?
  3. How can I complain about my energy supplier?
  4. How can I find out about energy supplier customer performance?
  5. How can I find out about energy savings grants?
  6. What’s The Warm Homes discount?
  7. What are the rules on energy companies increasing my costs retrospectively (“back billing”)
  8. Why is it important to read my meter regularly?
  9. Can I switch suppliers if I have solar PV panels?
  10. Can I sign up more than one property?
  11. How can landlords or Housing Associations take part?
  12. Is my information safe with you?
  13. I am not ready to switch now will you be doing this again?
  14. Help! I am in debt to my energy company, what should I do?
  15. Help! Can my supplier disconnect me?

Questions on switching energy suppliers

  1. How can I switch energy suppliers?
  2. How does collective energy switching work?
  3. Have all energy suppliers participated with thePeoplesPower?
  4. Will my supply be cut off when I switch?
  5. Can I switch if I owe money to my energy supplier when it is time to switch?
  6. How long does switching take?
  7. What happens if I have any problems switching?
  8. Is my supplier allowed to increase prices at any time?
  9. Can I switch if the energy contract is not in my name or I pay my landlord for my energy use directly?
  10. What happens if I am due credit from my supplier?
  11. Has collective energy switching been done before?
  12. Does my current energy tariff have a cancellation fee?
  13. Help! I am being pressured into switching my energy supplier or I have been switched without my consent

Help with filling in registration

  1. How can I get help filling in the form?
  2. I can’t find my energy supplier in your list of electricity and gas suppliers, what should I do?
  3. What happens if I haven’t got one years worth of energy use to enter?
  4. How can I change my details?
  5. I have just moved house so don’t have a year’s worth of energy usage to fill in?
  6. Where do I find my kilowatt hours information on my bill?
  7. What is economy 7?
  8. How do I work out how Economy 7 I have used?
  9. Is my information safe?
  10. What is a variable rate tariff?
  11. What is a fixed rate tariff?
  12. What are prepayment meters?
  13. What is a Dual fuel tariff ?
  14. What is “green” electricity?
  15. How to get an annual statement from your energy supplier

If you can’t find the answer to your question there are some excellent energy advice guides available from Consumer focus and Citizens Advice (both of these open in new windows). Feel free to let us know what you couldn’t find too and we will do our best to improve the resource here.

Answers to General Questions

What are thePeoplesPower collective energy switches?
thePeoplesPower is a not for profit organisation dedicated to helping people save money and energy. Our collective energy switches are about people registering on our site so we can negotiate together for a better deal from energy suppliers. More details on how thePeoplesPower cheaper energy switches work

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Are you making money from the collective switch? How?
Our service is free to consumers and we charge a nominal referral fee to energy suppliers of £2 per fuel switch to cover our costs. We will also give £3 per fuel switch to the Cheaper Energy Together campaign.  Any other money we recieve will be use to fund cashback to subscribers. This is far less than the industry standard of £30-70. In this way we can pass more savings on to consumers and energy suppliers can also save by getting new customers at a lower cost.

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How can I complain about my energy supplier?
If you think your supplier is not treating you fairly then there are strict rules that energy companies must obey to help you.

Our advice is in the first instance try to resolve things with your supplier – having a written record of your complaints is very helpful. The Citizens Advice Bureau advice guide should be the first people you consult for help, not only will they give you impartial advice they can also escalate things with energy suppliers.  You can call them on 08454 04 05 06 (calls are charged at national rates from landlines) or via their energy complaint form (opens in a new window). The Consumer Focus website (opens in a new window) also has a lot of good advice for consumers.

There is a time limit for resolving problems of 8 weeks for the big suppliers (British Gas, EDF, Eon, npower, Scottish Power and SSE) and 12 weeks for the smaller suppliers (everyone else)

If your case is not resolved you can escalate the case to the Energy Ombudsman who has the authority to give you up to £5000 in compensation.

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How can I find out about energy supplier customer performance?
Consumer Focus publish regular information on customer satisfaction for the “Big Six”. The latest survey shows SSE had the best customer satisfaction followed by British Gas, Scottish Power, Eon, npower with EDF performing worst. Which? also publish customer satisfaction regularly and find that the smaller suppliers come out best with Good Energy followed by Utility Warehouse, Ecotricity, Ovo and Ebico heading the list. The “Big Six” and First Utility come out poorest. Which? Energy supplier customer satisfaction ratings and Consumer Focus Energy supplier performance (opens in new windows)

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How can I find out about energy savings grants?
The latest information on energy savings grants can be found from the Energy Savings Trust (opens in a new window). At the moment there are lots of free deals for loft and cavity wall insulation – these are likely to stop before next winter so if you have a poorly insulated loft or cavity walls get them sorted – it will save you loads of money (for most households about £300 per year) on your energy bills.  Energy Suppliers have to meet targets for carbon reduction and are worried that they will not make them – hence there are lots of free offers. Visit moneysavingexpert free insulation offers (opens in a new window) to find out more.

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What’s The Warm Homes discount?
The Warm Homes is a new(ish) Government scheme to help some older and vulnerable people.  It will replace social tariffs over the next 4 years.  The government energy regulator, Ofgem has approved a number of different schemes for different energy companies and these are given out on a first-come first serve basis. To find out if your energy supplier will pay the credit (worth £130 for the winter of 2012/2013) see the eligibility criteria for your supplier (opens in a new window).  Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau who should also be able to help – the link to find local bureaus is at the bottom of the page  (opens in a new window)

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What are the rules on energy companies increasing my costs retrospectively (“back billing”)
The short answer is that Energy Suppliers cannot cause you financial hardship if they have made errors in your bill. This includes not making it clear that you have received estimated bills, not attempting to read your meter for 15 months and given you opportunities to send in your meter readings.  More detailed rules from Consumer focus (opens in a new window)

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Why is it important to read my meter regularly?
Energy bill estimations are often inaccurate. If you pay for more energy than you use then though you can claim it back (eventually) its often time consuming and stressful. If you pay too little then eventually when your meters are read you could get landed with a huge bill.

If you are unsure how to read your energy meters see these guides from the Citizens Advice Bureau – how to read your gas meter and how to read your electricity meter (opens in new windows).

If you need help to read your meter because you are long term ill, registered disabled, pensionable age, unable to see the meter or any other valid reason you maybe eligible to join the Priority Services Register.  This is a scheme that entitles you to free help and assistance including some or all of the following:

  • free service to move your meter to a location where you can read it
  • free quarterly meter readings (if you are unable to read it yourself)
  • free controls and adapters to make your meters and appliances easier to use
  • priority treatment if gas or electricity services are disrupted
  • ability to nominate someone to receive your bills
  • free gas safety check

Review the full details on the Priority Services register (opens in a new window).  To join the Priority Services Register you need to call your energy supplier.

 

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Can I switch suppliers if I have solar PV panels?
In short – yes! The agreement you have to sell electricity you generate from your Solar PV panels is entirely separate from your energy supply -so you can switch suppliers just like anyone else.  More about Solar PV and switching providers

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Can I sign up more than one property?
Please contact us if you have more than one property to sign up and we will make the necessary arrangements

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How can local organisations, landlords or Housing Associations take part?
Please contact us, we are really keen to work with you. Find out more about how we are working with local organisations

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Is my information safe with you?
We will not sell, share, lend any of your personal information to any third parties without explicitly asking for your permission first. We also use industry leading applications that conform to best practices in security. For more details please see our privacy policy.

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I am not ready to switch now will you be doing this again?
We plan to hold regular auctions so sign up and participate when you are ready.

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Help! I am in debt to my energy company, what should I do?

Don’t panic!

There are strict rules that energy suppliers must observe if you are in debt on your energy bills – so don’t panic and ignore the situation as this will only make matters worse. the advice below is for debts to energy suppliers – if you have other debts too it is best to talk to an impartial debt adviser such as the national debt line (opens in a new window) or call them on 0808808 4000.

In the first instance discuss your debts with Citizens Advice or the National Debt line – so that you get advice about what realistic repayments might be.

It is highly unlikely that taking out an additional high interest loan is a good idea – it is likely this will cost you even more money.

In brief the energy suppliers must do the following:

  • offer a realistic repayment plan
  • inform you about the Fuel Direct scheme
  • offer to fit a prepayment meter
  • provide energy efficiency advice (so you can make reduce your future energy use)
  • allow you to pay off your arrears in installments (weekly, monthly etc)

If you are on benefits the Fuel Direct Scheme may help
This is a Government backed scheme for people on benefits such as Income Support, Pension Credit, Income based job seekers allowance and income related employment and support allowance.

It is likely that this scheme will get you the best repayment plan – with payments you can afford being deducted from your benefits and sent directly to your supplier. To get help from this scheme you need to call Jobcentre Plus (opens in a new window) Note: don’t email them as they may take 10 days to respond!

Repayment plans
Before you agree to a repayment plan ask Citizens Advice or a debt advisor to prepare a statement detailing you income and outgoings – this will help your energy supplier to suggest an affordable repayment plan.  Find out more about repayment plans (opens in a new window)

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Help! Can my supplier disconnect me?
If your energy supplier is threatening to disconnect you, don’t delay or ignore the problem.  Despite the poor reputation of energy companies it is quite rare for people to be disconnected as energy suppliers have to follow strict rules on how to treat customers who are behind with their bills.

  1. Read your energy meters (find out how to read your meters) and see if you owe more or less than your latest bill shows
  2. Contact Citizens advice immediately – if you have other debts tell them about these too
  3. Stay in contact with your energy supplier and write down whatever suggestions they make

See Debt advice above for more information

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Answers to questions on switching energy suppliers

How can I switch energy suppliers?
You can switch energy suppliers or switch the tariff you are on directly with energy suppliers, via our switching partner’s consumer focus approved energy comparison service or via a collective switching service like thePeoplesPower.  If you are in debt to your energy supplier you will need to pay this off before you are allowed to switch.  Find out what you need to do if you are in debt to your energy supplier.

It usually takes about 4 – 6 weeks to complete a switch – and in no circumstances will your energy supply be switched off leaving you without gas or electricity.

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How does collective energy switching work?
Collective energy switching is about people joining together so they can negotiate together for a better deal from energy suppliers. More details on how thePeoplesPower cheaper energy switch works.  thePeoplesPower is a not for profit organisation dedicated to helping people save money and energy.

When you switch with thePeoplesPower, it is just like switching on your own – but you get the benefit of the negotiating power of thousands of people alongside you.

In Holland and Belgium collective switching is well established and many hundreds of thousands of people have used it to lower their energy costs over the last 4 years or so.  Lets make this work in the UK too – sign up for cheaper energy with thePeoplesPower.

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Have all energy suppliers participated with thePeoplesPower?
Collective switching is a new innovation in this country.  Many suppliers are attracted by our low referral fees and have agreed to participate with our collective switching. However, so far not all energy suppliers have agreed to participate at this stage but may want to do so in the future.

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Will my supply be cut off when I switch?
No!  When you finish your contract with your existing supplier a meter reading will be needed.  All that will change is that you will get bills and send meter readings to a different supplier.

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Can I switch if I owe money to my energy supplier when it is time to switch?
No – in general you must clear all the debt that you owe within 28 days of applying to switch.  Make sure that your energy supplier knows that you will be paying off the debt in full and check that money is paid and received by your energy before the 28 day deadline.

If your debt is less than 28 days old (ie your most recent bill) this energy debt can be transferred to the new supplier – but make sure that this is agreed with your current supplier.

Prepayment customers can switch provided they owe less than £500 (Note – this has recently increased from £200).

If the debt was caused by energy supplier error they cannot refuse to let you switch – but you will still have to pay off what you owe.  If you are in this situation it would be best to contact Citizens Advice (opens in a new window) to make sure that you have documented evidence to prevent problems and delays.

More about what to do if you are in debt to your energy supplier

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How long does switching take?
It usually takes about 4 – 6 weeks to complete a switch – and at no time will your energy supply be switched off.

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What happens if I have any problems switching?
The vast majority of energy switches occur without problems.  If you do have a problem see how to complain about your energy supplier.  Once you have switched supplier you should receive a bill that clearly says that it is the final bill from your old supplier.

If you don’t receive this get in touch with them as it is essential that they close your account and don’t continue to bill you.

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Is my supplier allowed to increase prices at any time?
An energy supplier has to give you 30 days notice if they increase their prices or change your contract that leaves you worse off.  This is a recent change in the rules – before they could put the prices up and not tell you for up to 65 days!

To avoid the increase in prices, you can switch your supplier.  Sign up for cheaper with thePeoplesPower.co.uk to join thousands of people trying to get a better energy deal.  Alternatively shop around to find a better deal on your own.

If you stay with your supplier, make sure the price rise is applied fairly by taking a meter reading and sending it to your supplier close to or on the date that the price rise comes in.

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Can I switch if the energy contract is not in my name or I pay my landlord for my energy use directly?
The person who is registered on the energy account needs to authorise the switch. If it’s your partner, make sure that the switching contract is done by them.

If you pay for your electricity and gas directly to your landlord as the bill is not in your name, you are not allowed to switch.

Rules on when you pay your landlord for your electricity and gas:

  1. Your landlord can only charge for energy use if your tenancy contract says they can
  2. There is a maximum price a landlord can charge for “reselling” you electricity and gas – its called the “Maximum Resale price” – and its set by law.
  3. If you have your own meter, you only pay for the units you have used (at a domestic rate – which has VAT at 5% not 20%) PLUS your share of the standing charge
  4. If you don’t have a meter, your landlord should be able to show you how your bill is worked out

If you have a dispute with your landlord try to resolve it informally and amicably.  If that is not possible get in touch with Citizens Advice (opens in a new window) for more help.

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What happens if I am due credit from my supplier?
Generally energy suppliers do not pay back money they owe you through over-payments unless you ask for it. When you switch suppliers you will be told when to take a final reading from your meter.  If at that time you are in credit ask your supplier to refund the money (preferable by email or in writing).

If you have problems getting your refund, see complaining about your energy supplier

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Has collective energy switching been done before?
Yes.  Collective switching is common in Belgium and Holland where hundreds of thousands of people have saved money by negotiating together.

In the UK the consumer group Which? together with 38 degress launched “the Big Switch”  which was won by Co-operative energy.  Find out what happened in the Big Switch.

Sign up now for thePeoplesPower collective switch

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Does my current energy tariff have a cancellation fee?
If you are unsure whether you have a cancellation fee and you cannot see the information on your bill, contact your energy supplier and ask them.  You can also ask them for an annual statement which will have this information.

Remember that if your energy supplier increases their prices during your contract period you are allowed to switch without a termination fee.  See “Is my supplier allowed to increase prices at any time

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Help! I am being pressured into switching my energy supplier or I have been switched without my consent
Don’t switch your supplier if you being pressurised to – especially if you are told that the offer is only available if you sign right away as this is likely an over-eager sales person.

If you are switched without your consent get in touch with your energy supplier right away IN WRITING and inform them.  Also contact Citizens Advice who will help you to resolve the matter swiftly.

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Answers to questions on filling in our registration

How can I get help filling in the form?
If you can’t find the answer to your questions please contact us and we will do our best to help. Your energy supplier should have information on how you can understand your bill and they will also supply you with an annual statement.

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I can’t find my energy supplier in your list of electricity and gas suppliers, what should I do?
Please use the option “other” in the drop down list of energy suppliers. We may need to contact you so we can add your supplier to our list.

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What happens if I haven’t got one years worth of energy use to enter?
From the information you have on your bills, do your best to estimate how much energy you think you will use over a year. In the UK the average electricity consumption per year is 3,300 kilowatt hours (kWh) and for gas it is 16,500 kilowatt hours (kWh). Note that you will use much more electricity and gas in the winter than the summer. Your energy supplier should be able to give you an estimate for how much you will use over the year.

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How can I change my details?
At any time you can log back in to our sign up form with the password you have selected. If you have forgotten your password please use the link provided to get a new one.

 

Answers to questions on filling in our registration

How can I get help filling in the form?
If you can’t find the answer to your questions please contact us and we will do our best to help.  Also your energy supplier should have information on how you can understand your bill and they will also supply you with an annual statement that answers nearly all the questions

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I can’t find my energy supplier in your list of electricity and gas suppliers, what should I do?
Please use the option “other” in the drop down list of energy suppliers.  We may need to contact you so we can add your supplier to our list.

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What happens if I haven’t got one years worth of energy use to enter?
From the information you have on your bills, do your best to estimate how much energy you think you will use over a year. In the UK the average electricity consumption per year is 3,300 kilowatt hours (kWh)  and for gas it is 16,500 kilowatt hours (kWh).  Note that you will use much more electricity and gas in the winter than the summer. Your energy supplier should be able to give you an estimate for how much you will use over the year.

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How can I change my details?
At any time you can log back in to our sign up form with the password you have selected.  If you have forgotten your password please use the link provided to get a new one.

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I have just moved house so don’t have a year’s worth of energy usage to fill in?
If you don’t know who your energy supplier is, you can call From the information you have on your bills, do your best to estimate how much energy you think you will use over a year. In the UK the average electricity consumption per year is 3,300 kilowatt hours (kWh)  and for gas it is 16,500 kilowatt hours (kWh).  Note that you will use much more energy in the winter than the summer.

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Where do I find my kilowatt hours information on my bill?
Your energy bill will contain information on how many kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy you have used. It should be clearly stated in the summary.

Check whether your latest bill contains Actual or Estimated readings (this should be clearly stated in your bill summary).  If these are estimated you can read your meter to get a more accurate estimation for annual usage.

Gas bills are a little more complex as they often display the amount you have used in cubic feet (ft3) or cubic meters (m3).  This is then converted into kWh.  If you want to do this calculation you will need to have your gas bill with you to see the “calorific value” of the gas you have been supplied with (as this varies).  See National Measuring Office information for the full details.

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What is economy 7?
Economy 7 is a special type of electricity tariff that charges 2 different rates depending on the time of day.  There is a lower charge for 7 hours per day (at night) and a higher charge during the day.

Economy 7 can be cheaper for you if you are able to use lots of your electricity at night time – for example your water heating, washing machine, drier, dishwasher, storage heaters and so on.  As the day time cost is higher, if you don’t use a lot of electricity at night it may end up costing more.  In general you need to use at least 40% of your electricity at night to save any money.  If you don’t this tariff could be costing you more!

You can see if you have economy 7 by looking at your bill – it will show 2 different tariffs (usually called “High or Normal” and another “Low”).  Your electricity meter will also have 2 sets of readings for day (normal) and night (low) use.  On digital meters there is often a red button for you to press which shows the day and night time use (and sometimes also the total). Finally on your bill your MPAN number will start with “02″

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How do I work out how much Economy 7 I have used?
On your bill the economy 7 usage will be labelled as the “low rate”, “night rate” or “off peak” usage.  If you are unsure, your bill will show the tariff cost in the calculations the kilowatt hour (kWh) figure with the lower cost per unit is the economy 7 usage.

Check on the summary section if the reading is estimated or actual (if it is estimated then it will have an “E” or “estimated” next to the reading.

If your annual usage is not on your bill, your energy supplier must tell you with an “annual statement”.  See how to get an annual statement

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Is my information safe?
We will not sell, share, lend any of your personal information to any third parties without explicitly asking for your permission first. We also use industry leading applications that conform to best practices in security. For more details please see our privacy policy.

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What is a variable rate tariff?
A variable tariff changes in line with the energy costs so the price may go up or down inline with energy costs. In 2012 (up to June) energy costs have tended to come down a little, in 2011 energy prices rose significantly.

In general there are no exit fees for switching when you are on a variable rate tariff.

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What is a fixed rate tariff?
A fixed rate tariff offers you peace of mind that your energy costs won’t go up over a defined period  (often 1 year).  However these tariffs are sometimes much more expensive – particularly when energy companies think that prices are about to go up.  There is often an exit or cancellation fee for leaving the tariff before the fixed period is up.

In the past many people on fixed tariffs have complained that when their deal expires they are moved onto a much more expensive tariff.

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What are prepayment meters?
Prepayment meters allow you to pay for your energy as you use it. Generally they use a special card, key or token for the energy you use (always buy these from shops recommended by your supplier or your supplier’s website as there have been many cases of people buying fraudulent keys/credits on the street which result in you being charged again by your supplier once they find out).

You can still read your energy usage from your prepayment meter and your supplier must also supply you with an annual statement if you request it.

Though prepayment meters can be a good way for people to budget their spending and control their costs.  They can also be programmed to allow you to pay off your debt to you supplier.

Disadvantages:

  • often the cost for electricity and gas is significantly higher than the best available deals
  • if you don’t have money for token/top up you will have to go without energy
  • it might be costly and time-consuming to travel to the nearest location to buy top ups
  • you can’t spread the cost of your (higher) winter bills as you can on a credit account

If you are in debt to your supplier they may insist on you having a prepayment meter.

If you want to switch from a prepayment meter to a credit account your supplier can charge you and may also insist on a credit being paid in advance. See Consumer Focus for details for the main suppliers

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What is a Dual fuel tariff?
A Duel Fuel tariff is when you get your gas and electricity from the same supplier and they provide a discount for you doing so.  It is often (but not always!) the cheapest option.  It is also a little simpler as you only have one energy contract to worry about.

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What is “green” electricity?
Unfortuately, there is no single definition of “green” electricity.  There is a standard called the “Green Energy Certification” scheme that basically says the scheme must have some tangible environmental benefits to be labelled as green – these include matching all electricity supplied to the consumer with renewable energy, carbon off-setting and support for renewable energy generation.

However many people want their electricity to be 100% from renewable sources (not matched from other supplies) or do not want to purchase from a supplier who generates from nuclear power stations.

We have provided 4 options for people who are interested in green supplies, so that we negotiate for the deal that most of you want:

100% renewable: This means that the supplier has to produce all the power they supply to you from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass, wave, tidal, geothermal and landfill gas.  These are generally a little more expensive but the companies who supply these products tend to have excellent customer service.

Nuclear free: A green tariff that does not have any nuclear power in its fuel mix but does have environmental benefits and meets the green energy certification standard/

Environmental benefits: A tariff with environmental benefits that meets the green energy certification standard.

Any green tariff: Select this option if you want a green tariff but are not concerned which.

We will opt for the one the majority of you select.

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How to get an annual statement
Energy suppliers must provide you with an annual statement – though you may need to ask for it if it has not already been sent to you.

Your annual statement will contain the following information (ideal for filling in our form)

The name of the customer’s current tariff

  • The customer’s consumption for the past 12 months in kilowatt hours (kWh)
  • An estimated cost in pounds per year of the customer’s supply for the next 12 months
  • A reminder of the principal conditions of their contacts
  • Information about any premiums or discounts that may apply to the customer’s tariff as compared to the supplier’s standard tariff where payment is by direct debit
  • A reminder that the customer can switch, along with advice on how to do so.

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