Energy tariffs: switch now to avoid £200 bill shock

Energy tariffs: switch now to avoid £200 bill shock

With a number of energy tariffs ending this week, now's the time to switch to a new deal.

Emma Lunn

Household money

Emma Lunn
Updated on 30 September 2014

Fixed energy tariffs are great, as you know exactly what you will be paying for your energy use for a set period of time. However, when they end customers often experience 'bill shock'.

This is because energy providers typically move customers to their standard rates, rather than their best tariff, when a fixed tariff finishes.

Standard tariffs tend to be expensive and are vulnerable to price changes if the price of wholesale energy goes up – or if the energy provider simply feels like putting its prices up.

For many, the time to act is now. A plethora of fixed rate energy deals are coming to an end over the next month.

Customers on these deals could face bill hikes of up to £200 a year if they don’t switch to a more competitive deal.

We’ve taken a look at what you need to do.

Which tariffs are ending in September?

Seven fixed rate energy tariffs end this week. They are:

  • EDF Energy’s Blue+Price Promise September 2014
  • Scottish Power’s Online Energy Saver 23
  • Scottish Power’s Help Beat Cancer Discounted Energy Online October 2014
  • M&S Energy’s Fix & Save
  • First Utility’s iSave Fixed v7
  • First Utility’s iSave Fixed v8 September 2014
  • Scottish Power’s Online Fixed Price Energy October 2014

Of these, customers on M&S Energy’s Fix & Save deal will see the biggest hike in bills. On Fix & Save a typical household would have been paying £993 a year but being moved to to M&S’ standard tariff would see their annual bill increase to £1,186. That’s £193 more.

Customers on Scottish Power’s Online Energy Saver 23 tariff will see the next biggest bill hike – they’ll be paying £141 a year more on Scottish Power’s standard tariff.

Even First Utility customers who face the smallest increase will see their annual bill go up by at least £67.

Which tariffs are ending in October?

It’s a similar story next month – nine fixed rate tariffs come to an end by the end of October. These are:

  • British Gas’ Fixed Price October 2014
  • Npower’s Online Price Fix October 2014
  • Npower’s Energy Online October 2014
  • Sainsbury’s Energy Online October 2014
  • Scottish Power’s Online Fixed Price Energy November 2014
  • Scottish Power’s Platinum Fixed Price Energy November 2014 Online NSC
  • Scottish Power’s Fixed Price Energy November 2014 Online
  • Scottish Power’s Unifi Fixed Energy November 2014
  • SSE’s Discount Bonus Oct 2014

Of these Sainsbury’s customers will see the biggest price hike. A typical bill will go from £1,002 a year to £1,193, an increase of £191.

The best tariffs to switch to

The good news is there are plenty of competitive dual fuel energy deals available and the best ones are cheaper than the tariffs ending in the next month or so.

Smaller energy suppliers have started to give the “big six” a run for their money. The cheapest deal on offer at the moment is a one-year fix from Extra Energy. Its Fresh Fixed Price Oct 2015 v2 tariff will cost an average of £990 a year.

First Utility’s one-year fix, iSave Fixed October 2015 (v30), is just £2 more expensive, at £992 a year.

Other competitive tariffs come from Sainsbury’s Energy, Ovo Energy, the Cooperative Energy and Green Star Energy.

Head to's energy comparison centre to see which tariffs are available in your area.

Why you need to take action now

Although it doesn’t take long to pick a new supplier and get the ball rolling, switching energy deals normally takes about six weeks from start to finish.

So, if your tariff finishes today, you’ll end up paying your current supplier’s standard rates for a few weeks while the transfer goes through. If your current deal ends at the end of October you need to act now to avoid spending more than a week or two on an uncompetitive rate.

Under Ofgem rules, suppliers must send you notice about your plan's upcoming end date 42 to 49 days before the end of your plan. You current supplier will tell you about cheaper deals it offers – but not whether you can get a better price elsewhere.

The cheapest deals are usually managed online with payments by direct debit.

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