Power companies are taking the piss

Scottish Power annoyed me the other day: they sent me a letter labelled THIS IS NOT A CIRCULAR – OPEN IMMEDIATELY. Cheeky bastards, I thought – especially when I opened it (several hours later, heh) to discover that it wasn’t urgent. It was my annual statement, telling me how badly I’ve been shafted over the last 12 months and how severe they expect the shafting to be over the next 12 months.

So I decided to switch suppliers. Bloody hell, if you thought insurers screwed anybody who doesn’t switch each year, the power companies make the insurance industry look like heroes. According to Scottish Power, last year it cost me just over £1,200 for gas and electricity. Next year, it’s going to be nearly £1,600. Switching brings that down to around £950.

That’s an incredible amount of money. It’s partly because the new provider offers an online discount for paperless billing, but it’s mainly because – I suspect – the power companies know they can get away with it, because comparing tariffs is a complete and utter pain in the arse. Sites such as USwitch do their best, but you still need to look at very confusing PDFs to work out what the hell each provider charges. You need to narrow it down by supply area, look at the different consumption rates (typically there’s one rate for the first X kilowatt hours then another rate for the rest) for gas and electricity, work out what the discounts are for dual fuel, direct debit, paperless billing and so on, and try to stay (a) awake and (b) vaguely interested throughout the whole tedious process. But by god, it’s worth it.

Put it this way: if I’d stuck with Scottish Power, my monthly direct debit would be £141. Switching has brought it down to £80. If you haven’t done it yourself (or done it this year), it’s worth the tedium.





0 responses to “Power companies are taking the piss”

  1. Anonymous

    Hey Gary,

    Interesting stats here on how some of your neighbours are getting shafted a tad more…

  2. Derek

    I was also just looking into switching as Scottish Power had been pissing me off too. In the end, I ended up staying with Scottish Power, but have moved to a lower “no standing charge” tariff because I’m such a low user that it’s cheaper to be on that. Funny how Scottish Power didn’t tell me that though!

    Npower could have saved me more money but their customer service is so notoriously bad that I didn’t think it would be worth it.

    Who did you switch to Gary?


  3. Comparing may be a pain in the arse, but I still miss it. Over here, we’ve got a state electricity monopoly and a private gas monopoly.

  4. Gary

    Anonymous: bloody hell. Explanation says high standing charges and high network charges – is there a reason for that, eg like the north there’s only one provider?

    Derek: EDF. Sadly it turns out they’re not the Earth Defence Force :) FWIW Scottish Power also does some sort of paperless billing discount…

    Squander Two: Gas is still pretty rare over there, isn’t it? I know that for most of my family heating means a great big container of heating oil in the back garden.

  5. We’ve got those atrocious 1970s white meter heaters which are proprietary to the old monopoly, so we can’t switch away from ScottishPower. We tried several times, but the switch is always rejected. Estimates I’ve read say that up to 10% of the households in Scotland are like this. So they can charge whatever they want and provide Ryanair style service if they like – we’re stuck with them. How’s that for a piss-take?

  6. We’ve got a Calor gas tank in the garden (live out in the country), which isn’t the cheapest and is monopolistic, but then we live in the country so it’s a price worth paying, in my book.

    Our electricity is a scandal, though.

  7. Gary

    Heather: that’s an epic piss-take.

    Jamie: yeah, calor is a pretty reasonable price to pay for living in the country :)

  8. I really need to spend some time looking at this. Scottish power have been ripping the shit out of us in this flat for years now. Last time I complained (take the overcharged monies off the estimate and re-adjust the estimate to reflect that you overcharged) they dropped my direct debit to around £20. I noresd back up to £90 withing five months. (Really mush read their letters more often too)

  9. Funnily enough today I got a letter from SP informing us that they are changing the times that they do the overnight storage heater charge, which is controlled by a radio teleswitch. In addition to finally knowing what causes that loud clicking noise just before midnight, that’ll be another one for your list of possible wi-fi interference bugbears, Gary.

  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous here again, I really should register! Pretty much a monopoly. Having the highest average salary (euro 77k) of any semi-state might have something to do with it. As usual, the boards make the most entertaining reading… http://tinyurl.com/neqalf