VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Keep switching to keep your energy bills low

There has been no greater champion of the liberalisation of the energy market than Money Mail

There has been no greater champion of the liberalisation of the energy market than Money Mail.

For decades, we have campaigned to break the stranglehold of the Big Six suppliers and boost competition so customers can get a better deal.

Time and again, we have reported how readers can save hundreds of pounds a year by giving lesser-known firms a chance.

There has been no greater champion of the liberalisation of the energy market than Money Mail

Today, it may be time to concede that the race to compete on price is having some negative consequences.

As we report today, many customers are at their wits’ end after fighting for months to get their money back from small firms that have gone bust.

This section has spent years trying to cajole households into shopping around, but now I fear customers will become so frustrated they’ll give up on switching altogether. 

This would be a devastating outcome, as staying with the same supplier year after year means you could miss out on enormous savings.

It would be unfair to tar all small suppliers with the same brush. Many do a brilliant job, and without them forcing behemoths such as British Gas to compete for your custom, bills could sky-rocket.

So what should you do? Well, I switch energy provider every year and I admit that, up until now, I have been pretty cavalier when it comes to choosing supplier. My mantra was: ‘Cheapest is best.’ 

Now, I’ll be paying far more attention to how a firm’s customer service is ranked by Citizens Advice. 

This is vital because high numbers of complaints and problems getting credit balances refunded are tell-tale signs that a supplier may be in trouble.

Watchdog Ofgem has promised to push up service standards and force new firms to pass stricter checks before they are allowed to take on customers. 

But it needs to move swiftly, before nervous households are driven back to the pricey Big Six suppliers.

Sharks tanked

It is a relief to learn that a gang of cold-calling sharks who conned elderly victims out of £425,000 in just five months are now off the streets — for a while, at least.

The four scammers, who called themselves the ‘Wolves of Wind Street’, were jailed on Monday for conspiring to defraud, in their own, charming words, ‘pension-rich suckers’.

As Money Mail reported recently, the group had promised victims new boilers in return for an upfront fee of £299 or £399 under a government scheme that did not exist.

The gang, who chose their nickname because they spent much of their ill-gotten gains wining and dining in the notorious Wind Street nightclub area of Swansea, South Wales, were stopped only after local trading standards intervened.

The trio of company directors were each jailed for three years and nine months. A fourth member of staff was sentenced to 18 months. If it were up to me, I’d throw away the key.

In praise of Axa

Here at Money Mail, we regularly hear from readers who feel let down by insurers. So it makes a nice change to print a positive tale.

Tony, from Dawlish, South Devon, says his travel insurer, AXA, went above and beyond the call of duty when his wife fell ill in India.

Following a stay in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, the couple came down with food poisoning. Tony recovered, but his wife had to spend six days in hospital.

He writes: ‘Axa covered all hospital and extra accommodation costs and took control of the situation, which was a relief. It also paid for first-class flights home and flew in caring Dr Singh Satvender to provide medical supervision on the journey home.’

Well done AXA!


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