I switched from British Gas to a one year dual fuel deal with Sainsbury’s back in June. I was thrilled at the time because, unbelievably, I was going to save over £1,000 a year on my gas and electricity. That actually works out as about 30% less because Minted Towers has many an echoing corridor to heat. A top-up for the Aperol fund, I thought. But it didn’t quite end up like that.
The main issue was the billing. Sainsbury’s invoices you quarterly yet you pay a monthly direct debit. Statements therefore can give a false impression. For example, in February my bill said I owed £236.70. Yet in March, after my direct debit went through, I saw on the website that I was £43.06 in credit.
Another irritation is that while British Gas emailed me every month asking for a meter reading, Sainsbury’s has only done so quarterly – if at all. So all the debits and credits are being totted up off estimates, not a real record of my usage.
Despite these problems, in my opinion, being due to Sainsbury’s and not yours truly, they’ve had a hissy fit and whacked up my monthly payments by £43.79. Without even asking, the barefaced cheek of it!
I also feel a bit ripped off. Obviously the juicy figure they used to entice me away from British Gas was only an estimate. I could’ve burnt through more than the previous year and had to pay more - which is the case because I’m sure last May wasn’t so cold and I didn’t have the central heating on like I do now! But this unplanned extra really takes the shine off my bargain. It’s still a saving, just not so good as I thought it was. I won’t be staying with Sainsbury’s after my contract runs out.
So – lower your expectations. I would still recommend people look into switching. But those switching and comparison sites do get paid commission. Check you're looking at the whole market and not just the deals which the site gets paid for. We’ve got a guide to cutting fuel bills here.
Personally I’m hoping Momma May and her merry band of conservatives will introduce the cap on energy prices they are proposing. With prices similar across the board, the companies will have to compete on a different basis – service. It can’t come fast enough.