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Energy companies - a shower of

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 subtle 03 Oct 2022

So, have been paying a direct debit of £xxx for the last few months, they emailed this morning to day that my direct debit is to rise to £xxx, an increase of 74%

Flippin heck.

They also advise though that my balance is in credit of over £1,000.00 

I have responded asking them to justify the increase if I am in Credit by so much!

(they have included a credit of £66 for October as part of the £400 govt support scheme)

 Hardonicus 03 Oct 2022
In reply to subtle:

I'm always surprised that direct debuts can be adjusted at will by the recipient. I would like to be able to lock down so the fkuers can't do this. I had a right slanging match with British Gas after telling them I couldn't/wouldn't pay 1000 a month for gas and elec.

1
 Moacs 03 Oct 2022
In reply to subtle:

You can instruct them to take only what is owed each month.  They have to do this.

In reply to subtle:

You were never going to get a good outcome from a "competition" scheme pretty much entirely based around cutting the costs of billing and customer services.  The whole idea was a sham and should never have happened.  Only a tiny number of the firms have been genuinely innovative.

There was little wrong with "gas from the gas board, leccy from the leccy board, water from the water board" really, it offered the optimal economies of scale.  Or even better one utility board doing all three.

Post edited at 10:28
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 henwardian 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Moacs:

> You can instruct them to take only what is owed each month.  They have to do this.

Good luck with that.

To the OP: Cancel the direct debit and insist they send you a bill each month that you pay by bacs. It's a total pain to do this as it means every month you need to specifically make the payment but it's the only way I've found to keep the electricity supplier on the level.

1
 The Norris 03 Oct 2022
In reply to subtle:

Mine is suggesting the opposite, I have been moderately overpaying for the past year or so, and have built up a bit of a buffer to get me through winter, and I Hope to continue paying the same amount I have been all year, despite the energy cost rises. Yet they continually try and knock down my payments to a very low level to get rid of my credit. makes no sense to me!

Luckily it seems very easy to adjust my repayments manually (I'm with bulb).

 Moacs 03 Oct 2022
In reply to henwardian:

Why?  I have done exactly that and it works fine

 Tringa 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

Given that gas, electricity and water are commodities that everyone has to buy(I'm excluding those people off grid here) it seems beyond belief that governments would not want to own them.

They aren't like breakfast cereals or fashion items where there is lots of choice – anyone owning them has a captive market.

The obvious danger with state owned utilities, or state owned anything, is any losses fall on the taxpayer.

However, the current privately owned energy suppliers have made good profits(nothing wrong with that) over the years; some of which go to investment shareholders.

If a private company can make a profit from energy supply is it not an appalling situation that the government, with resources far in excess of even the largest private company, cannot do the same with the profits coming to the Exchequer? Or perhaps, not so much cannot do the same, but don't want to.

OFGEM was set up to regulate an expanding private energy supply market but as suggested by this edition

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/why-are-your-energy-bills-so-high-dispatches/on-demand/73763-001?banner=sign-in

of Channel 4's Dispatches, the regulation and oversight has been sorely lacking and we as bill payers are having to bear the cost.

Dave

 LastBoyScout 03 Oct 2022
In reply to The Norris:

I have been overpaying for a few months to clear a defecit from them under-estimating our energy usage and, having cleared that, it seems I'm now slightly in credit and they wanted to reduce our DD accordingly.

However, while it's nice to have a slight buffer on the bills, I'd rather it was in my account earning interest for me (even if it is a pittance), rather than them!

 LastBoyScout 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Tringa:

> Given that gas, electricity and water are commodities that everyone has to buy(I'm excluding those people off grid here) it seems beyond belief that governments would not want to own them.

> The obvious danger with state owned utilities, or state owned anything, is any losses fall on the taxpayer.

> However, the current privately owned energy suppliers have made good profits(nothing wrong with that) over the years; some of which go to investment shareholders.

> If a private company can make a profit from energy supply is it not an appalling situation that the government, with resources far in excess of even the largest private company, cannot do the same with the profits coming to the Exchequer? Or perhaps, not so much cannot do the same, but don't want to.

> etc

The issue is that they haven't just been making moderate profits, though, is it.

The issue is that they've been creaming off billions into share holder dividends and sky-high executive salaries - money which should have gone into the public purse.

The core utilities/infrastructure/resources (gas, electric, water, trains, North Sea oil and gas, etc) should NEVER have been sold off into private hands in the first place.

4
 Harry Jarvis 03 Oct 2022
In reply to LastBoyScout:

> I have been overpaying for a few months to clear a defecit from them under-estimating our energy usage and, having cleared that, it seems I'm now slightly in credit and they wanted to reduce our DD accordingly.

> However, while it's nice to have a slight buffer on the bills, I'd rather it was in my account earning interest for me (even if it is a pittance), rather than them!

Do bear in mind that your energy use over winter will be considerably higher than in summer, and the credit you currently have will soon be eaten up by the increased use. Reducing your direct debit now may mean that you fall into deficit more quickly. 

1
 Jenny C 03 Oct 2022
In reply to LastBoyScout:

No to mention still releasing untreated sewage into our rivers and onto beaches. 

I'd like to see bonuses linked to the companies overall performance. So they are forced to invest in infrastructure and providing a service that is fit for purpose, before they can even think of paying out any bonuses.

 stubbed 03 Oct 2022
In reply to subtle:

Honestly, if you have credit of over £1000 have you not considered reducing your direct debit sooner? I monitor my credit & bills regularly and would match the payment to what I'm using. I always reject their request to increase my direct debt, unless it is reflected in the estimated useage. I've never had a provider who had an issue with this.

 The Norris 03 Oct 2022
In reply to LastBoyScout:

Point taken about the interest, but I've found it a bit easier to manage my other finances by having a constant level of payment, rather than having it increase and decrease on a semi regular interval. Maybe I'll have another look at it after this winter.

 henwardian 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Moacs:

> Why?  I have done exactly that and it works fine

Glad that it has worked for you. In my experience electricity companies do not do what they say they are going to do unless incessantly cajoled or (more usually) outright forced to do so. I've given up on trusting them to handle the financials of bill calculation and payment collection and been forced to take on that roll myself. It's not great having to do their job for them and it's a waste of time I'd rather use for something else, but it is still better than the alternative.

1
In reply to Tringa:

It's called ideology over sense, or releasing capital but losing long term income.  Some things are natural monopolies.  Utilities and railways are a key two.  (Before anyone says "but you get better service in the private sector" the best regarded TOC at the moment is LNER which has been nationalised, and the worst probably Avanti West Coast which is run by FirstGroup - it's all about the quality of management and not micromanaging from Government but rather setting strategy and funding and letting experts get on with it - QuANGOs are not automatically a bad thing, sometimes they are very good).

Post edited at 15:28
In reply to subtle:

I'm with Octopus.  I have built up a significant credit balance, partly because my bills dropped after the ASHP went in, and partly because they've paid me several referral bonuses.  They wrote to me a few weeks ago and said that as I had so much credit they would just stop taking any money from me until it dropped to a more sensible level.  

So, it can be done, but I fear you won't get that sort of service from the Big Six.

In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

As a company they so far IME are a great company with their way of dealing with things eg allowing the customer to choose to change D/D amount, have a payment holiday if required, and, in theory, repayment of credit (in theory as never needed to try to see if it works), etc.

They didn’t write to me, but logging in yesterday I noticed they had given me a payment holiday. I don’t have too much credit (a bit over £200) and not enough to get through extra winter usage I reckoned. I also prefer to continue to pay regularly so I just clicked on to change the D/D amount and that overrode the payment holiday. I will have this month of no payment though as it was too late to change it back to making a payment for this month.

Anyone who has hassle with their company should consider moving to Octopus.

In reply to Climbing Pieman:

They really do seem significantly better than the rest, don't they?  There was a complaint about them in The Guardian a while ago, but so far as I could tell it was from a customer who'd not read the T&Cs properly.

My credit balance is about £700 (I got £500 in referral bonuses a few months ago!) which might have been what triggered them to actually write to me.

Shameless self-interested promotion: if anyone is considering switching to them, do so via this link and we'll get £50 each    https://share.octopus.energy/eager-eve-607

Post edited at 16:52
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

I've heard fairly good things about them but I do wonder if some of that is because of people being paid to be promoters.  I also wonder if their offering nominally good customer service is affordable, i.e. they'll end up failing, as like with car insurance energy is mostly just a "race to the bottom".

Post edited at 16:58
2
In reply to Neil Williams:

Who really knows, but they are open in discussing things on their website. They seem open about all aspects of their company on their website for anyone who wants to take time to read the extensive stuff there. I even saw an article about why they will survive current situation -
https://octopus.energy/blog/built-to-last/ .

From previous stuff I read, the domestic supply side as I recall is only a small part of their business/wider group of companies.

Maybe they are just very good as PR; time will tell I suppose. I’m happy with my experience so far to recommend them even without any “incentive”.

 jimtitt 03 Oct 2022
In reply to LastBoyScout:

> The core utilities/infrastructure/resources (gas, electric, water, trains, North Sea oil and gas, etc) should NEVER have been sold off into private hands in the first place.

They were all private in the first place.

russellcampbell 03 Oct 2022
In reply to The Norris:

> Luckily it seems very easy to adjust my repayments manually (I'm with bulb).

I've found the same with Bulb. Suggest the adjustments I should make in my DD. On the other hand, their calculations are often miles out. Last week said I was in debit by just over £500 and suggested I increase my DD by c133%. I queried this and sent readings. Within a couple of hours they e-mailed me to say I was in credit by c£650 [over £700 when government subsidy added] and suggested I increase my DD by c60% which seems about right to cover higher usage in winter.

Rumours Octopus taking over Bulb. Hope it is as good a company as some have suggested.

 Dax H 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Moacs:

> Why?  I have done exactly that and it works fine

Same here, they wanted £300 a month DD, told them to do one. Pre increase our combined was £70 a month though to be fair that was too low and when our supplier went bust and the new people took over I got a 4 figure bill. 

We now give them a reading every month and just pay for actual use, last month was £125. There was a slightly heated discussions about why we should be on DD to balance the cost over a year. The heated part was they were very insistent and we were having none of it.

You have to wonder how many millions of pounds energy companies are in front and how much money they make investing our over payments through summer. 

 Martin W 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> There was a complaint about them in The Guardian a while ago, but so far as I could tell it was from a customer who'd not read the T&Cs properly.

It wasn't that long ago: just last week!

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/sep/27/how-can-octopus-give-me-a-fixed-rate-tariff-that-isnt-fixed

Unfortunately the article is pretty confusing and makes it difficult to understand the details sufficiently to get a proper feel of who was in the right.  The ombudsman sided with Octopus, though, which does suggest that the customer was somehow mistaken as to what they'd signed up to (although the details quoted from their letter, if accurate, make it difficult to understand what the Ts & Cs could have said that went against what they claim they were told).

 neilh 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Had to laugh. Octopus is one of the biggest providers ( 4th on the list below BG, EDF, Eon)  in the UK. Perceptions.

So yes it can easily be done!

All the small providers have folded up and left the market.

Post edited at 19:02
In reply to thread:

Not much to add to this thread but one essential point has been missed. When in excessive credit your options are:

A) spend an hour buggering about playing the "press 2 adventure quest" game and have a fruitless circular conversation with a belligerent script reader 

B) spend about a minute switching suppliers online, triggering an automatic refund

In reply to neilh:

I knew they've been growing rapidly, but hadn't realised quite how big they'd become!  That's going some, to have overtaken SSE and Scottish Power having only started (goes and checks) seven years ago.

In reply to Martin W:

Octopus do have a range of different tariffs and as I recall they had special ones for each of the takeovers of customers of failed companies. This might offer a better explanation “if” it is the same contract that article is about - https://octopus.energy/price-promise-calculations/ . It appears to be a variable tariff but with a fixed term. 

 Lhod 03 Oct 2022
In reply to henwardian:

> Good luck with that.

> To the OP: Cancel the direct debit and insist they send you a bill each month that you pay by bacs. It's a total pain to do this as it means every month you need to specifically make the payment but it's the only way I've found to keep the electricity supplier on the level.

This. I have a savings account with the same bank as my current account (so it's easy to switch money back and forward instantly) which I use for energy bills, and pay a generous amount into it each month. That way I can still build up a credit to cover increasing rates / winter usage, or for months where I'm short of funds. It means that it's not sat in the suppliers account, earning them interest and at risk if they go bust (or at least irretrievable for a few months).

I think it's all the pros of direct debit but with none of the cons. You just have the minor admin of paying bills on demand.

In addition I'd recommend providing monthly meter reads, and if you're spreadsheet savvy then forecasting expected costs so you don't get caught out by unexpectedly high charges. 

 neilh 03 Oct 2022
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

And demonstrates why competition can be useful in a ruthless way. 

 Maggot 03 Oct 2022
In reply to subtle:

We're on prepayment meters, gas and electric. The Mrs negotiated standard rates so we aren't being shafted with huge bills dropping through the letterbox or dodgy dds.

Works perfect for us.

In reply to subtle:

My monthly bill went from £110 to £212 in April. Meter was read in late March, got to admit that I didn't look at the bill too closely and didn't notice that despite the March meter reading they were still using an estimate for my electricity reading.

I took a reading myself last month of each and updated their system. Electricity was 3,500kwh less than they estimated and they estimated that I used more gas between March and May than I did between March and September. I'm about £1,400 in credit. They (eon) seem to think that that this is normal, despite the error with the electricity. I'm just going to monitor through the winter, I suspect I will still well over £1,000 in credit come April. At which point I will have accurate annual usage figures.

In reply to Tringa:

Well, Equinor seems to manage it pretty well... as do EDF...in fact, EDF make pretty good profits FOR THE FRENCH STATE out of you and I. (not so much in the last 5 years, but point stands).

I'm with Bulb, who are now technically state owned too. They were always pretty good to deal with, decent we portal and sensible amount of adjustment allowed in the DD - 100% renewable electricity* too (and they actually have 100% of the capacity, rather than just buying ROCs etc.)

* gas is carbon offset, so make of that what you will, but the electricity is 100% renewable.

 jimtitt 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

> * gas is carbon offset, so make of that what you will, but the electricity is 100% renewable.

Delusional. Bulb only supplied 4% of it's electricity from renewable sources, the rest was wholesale grid mix greenwashed with REGO certificates.

 neilh 04 Oct 2022
In reply to The New NickB:

I think it’s normal because alot of people never bothered with power costs as they were low.I reckon it’s a good thing that people are now reading their meters etc. 

 remus Global Crag Moderator 04 Oct 2022
In reply to jimtitt:

> Delusional. Bulb only supplied 4% of it's electricity from renewable sources, the rest was wholesale grid mix greenwashed with REGO certificates.

Have you got a source? Id be interested to read about how this works as bulb seem keen to push the line that they supply a lot of renewable energy.

 Lord_ash2000 04 Oct 2022
In reply to subtle:

I'm with Bulb and I was surprised the other day to get an email telling me that they wanted to reduce my direct debit by £40 because I had a credit balance. 

My credit was only about £360 and I was already paying slightly less than I'm currently using. So given my energy use will be going up this month along with the increased price per kWh I decided to keep it at its current level. 

I'm sure you can just set it to whatever you want though as long as you're in credit.  

In reply to jimtitt:

Bit harsh Jim, ill-informed I'll accept but that's not a particularly nice way of putting it.

I was sure at one point they stated they sourced 100% from renewables, but I guess I either mis-remembered or just got the wrong end of the stick. Ultimately ALL energy, unless you have an off-grid direct PPA, comes from the "greenwashed wholesale mix" so it's a bit moot. 

Calling REGOs greenwashing could also be unfairly classed as "delusional" but I wouldn't go that far - the grid wouldn't be >40% renewables/low carbon by now if it weren't for those early subsidies and incentives - so I'd say they've done their job. Other methods may have been more successful, it's not an area I'm particularly expert in. 

Edited to add - with regards to the REGO stuff - I'd like to do a bit more reading on that subject but don't have time right now. However, it should be remembered that all on- and offshore wind that comes under the Contracts for Difference "Strike Price" auction rounds get sold direct to the wholesale grid. Given that in 2021, wind generation under CfD accounted for 10% of the total UK energy supply - that's 10% that is not under PPA, and CANNOT BE under PPA until the initial 15yr CfD contract runs out. The only way of the public accessing that portion of the mix, is via the wholesale market.*

It does seem from a quick glance that Bulb were pushing their green credentials a bit strongly, but the argument from "goodenergy" that ALL renewables must be purchased under PPA is also a bit of a fallacy as discussed above. https://www.goodenergy.co.uk/when-bulb-claims-to-supply-renewable-electricity-wherever-possible-it-means-just-4-of-the-time/

*and another 7GW has just been awarded.

Post edited at 13:31
 jimtitt 04 Oct 2022
In reply to remus:

Bulb claim "Bulb supplies 100% renewable energy to all it's members from solar, wind and hydro". Past the headline they say they supply from the normal grid mix and apply REGO certificates to this. When closely audited it transpired they actually only contracted to renewable suppliers for 4% of the power they sold, the rest was from all over the place and turned into green power by buying REGO certificates which are cheap as hell. A normal household it used to cost 50p a year to do this though the price has rocketed, the auction last month they went for €4.80MW/h. The electricity from our biogas plant goes into the local grid, the certificates go to German Rail to counteract their use of brown coal power and improve their eco credentials.

REGO's are cool, they work even if the power is generated on another continent or in fact has never been generated but it could have been.

The system is supposedly going to be reformed!

In reply to jimtitt:

Further to my last post - I see some of the newer offshore wind (Dogger Bank) has matching power-purchase agreements for their CfD term. All this posting has highlighted I need to know a bit more about all this  - I've not been keeping up - I'm more into how to fix them than how to sell the electrons...

 neilh 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

Harsh but when you step back and think its impossible for any supplier to 100% guarantee that its renewable...its not the way power generation works.

 jimtitt 04 Oct 2022
In reply to neilh:

> Harsh but when you step back and think its impossible for any supplier to 100% guarantee that its renewable...its not the way power generation works.

However it's not unreasonable to expect that all the power that they sell as renewable is purchased directly from a renewable supplier even though it is fed into the grid for distribution. Using certificates for electricity that never could have been supplied to the customer is ludicrous.

In reply to jimtitt:

> However it's not unreasonable to expect that all the power that they sell as renewable is purchased directly from a renewable supplier even though it is fed into the grid for distribution. Using certificates for electricity that never could have been supplied to the customer is ludicrous.

Agreed. And the fact that situation arose is clearly bonkers - but really, that's the regulator's fault. 

@Neilh - like I say - the *only* way of guaranteeing 100%of all the electrons flowing* into your meter is having your own off-grid supply...  However, I don't see any issue with calling a product "100% renewable" if either:

1) The supplier owns all of it's own renewable assets and only sells you what it exports.

2) A supplier has a genuine, cast iron guarantee (what REGO were intended to be, but clearly failed) that 100% of the energy they source is from renewable sources - as mentioned, this is most easily undertaken through a PPA, where the supplier has an agreement for 7,10 or 15 years to buy an an amount of electricity for a producer. 

On both these cases, yes, the electricity you use is just the real-world mix on the wholesale market - it ALWAYS is, unless we build a totally separate grid for low-Co2 sources!

*oh FFS, even that can be picked apart, since in AC systems electrons just bloody well vibrate, don't they...

Maybe they could have sent renewable energy at 70Hz instead of 50Hz...

 Richt79 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

Bulb have never asked me to reduce my payments! The way they fanny around with their calculations at the month end/start is incredibly irritating, allows them to underestimate the credit I'm in which is just shy of £500 and increasing monthly but they still tried to put my direct debit up £80 this month. On top of that you can only ever get refunded a portion of your credit (must have one month of your direct debit in there). They also set a minimum direct debit so when they upped my DD I could only reduce it back down by £60 unless I go through the hassle of finding someone to chat to in the limited times their call centre is open.

As someone posted above about shifting to a new provider that would be great if it was an option at the moment. You can't just go online to move to Octopus although I'd like to because despite the cap on unit charges they are still resisting new customers. 

 wercat 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

you omitted to mention that the industries run by the local ,and regional boards were all regulated in part by a state established "Consumers Council" to make sure consumers were represented in major decisions.  A requirement foreseen, understood and MET by the designers of the state owned utilities on which we depend that were brought in by the post-war Labour government.  (My special Subject on which I wrote a lengthy dissertation when an undergraduate)

Easy to destroy and forget when you are a Self Servative, Devil Take the Hindmost

 Maggot 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

Excuse my naivety, if you buy your electric from a 100% renewable supplier, does all your cash go to renewable generators?

As for electrons, those pesky transformers get in the way

 jimtitt 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Maggot:

No, this being one of the major problems with the system. There is no financial incentive to invest in new supply when you can "clean" your existing for pennies.

 neilh 04 Oct 2022
In reply to jimtitt:

It was just a clever marketing gimmick. Still at least the U.K. is generating a lot of elec by wind power. It’s unbelievable the transformation irrespective of the doomsayers. 

In reply to neilh:

I think that's still being a bit unfair about the original intent, which was a way for renewable producers to easily get their power to the grid, and for consumers to be able to buy renewable energy, ill thought out and open to abuse as it turns out it was. 

@Maggot: Yes* , well, no, well...It's complicated!  Wish I had time to try to clear this up, but I need to go and fill some supplier approval forms and then go climbing, so I'll just leave it there.

if, for now, we ignore the fact that the system was open to abuse. It was certainly the intent.

 neilh 04 Oct 2022
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

And in turn renewable generators were in effect encouraged by U.K. Gov( maybe something the Tories did correctly)personnally doubt  the providers would have done it without that support. Complex. 

In reply to Richt79:

>  On top of that you can only ever get refunded a portion of your credit (must have one month of your direct debit in there)

> You can't just go online to move to Octopus although I'd like to because despite the cap on unit charges they are still resisting new customers. 

Just to let you know for the time if you do change to Octopus (unless they have changed their terms since I went to them), they require 1 month D/D equivalent upfront as part of the T&Cs, and as they then take the first D/D in the first month, that’s two monthly payments on credit before the first bill.

Not aware there is a min credit required after that though (never needed to test it!).

Post edited at 19:19

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