Ask An Expert: Energy II
The MSE Forum's latest 'Ask An Expert' event returned to the topic of energy, which was also the theme of its very first event. Here's how it went.
With the colder weather seeping in, and with energy switching becoming an option again, we decided to revisit energy for the fifth MSE Forum Ask An Expert event. This was a chance for the community to put their questions to MSE Andrew and MSE Clare from the Utilities team.
The Ask An Expert took place in its own corner of the MSE Forum between 26 and 29 September.
Thanks so much to everyone who posted a question.
It wasn't possible for our experts to get round to answering every post, but they did get through a substantial chunk.
Queries included topics like fixing, switching, winter fuel payments, account credit and much more.
Below are some of the questions and their answers. Bear in mind these were posted in the MSE Forum by 29 September 2023 and won't be updated.
IMPORTANT: MoneySavingExpert.com doesn't give personal financial advice. This applies to the Ask An Expert event too. While the experts are able to explain things in general terms and point to extra help, you should always do your own research when applying their knowledge to your specific circumstances.
Energy deals are starting to slowly return, though savings for switching aren’t anywhere near the same levels they were before the energy crisis.
However, a few firms offer tariffs that could be worth considering – though some of the cheapest are for existing customers of that firm. If you want to consider those types of tariff, you can first switch to that provider’s standard tariff then ask to be moved to the existing customer deal. Though do be aware deals can be pulled at any time, and switching firm usually takes around five days.
~ MSE Andrew
Forumite victor2 noted that energy suppliers seem to be insistent about accounts remaining in credit. MSE Clare explained what the consumer's rights are in this situation.
You are correct that typically you'll be in credit after the summer months, but this isn't always the case.
Ofgem set out guidelines for "fair and reasonable" direct debits, meaning suppliers must take reasonable steps to ensure customers' direct debit levels are based on the best available information, and they must be able to explain to you how they set it.
If you have accumulated credit, you're entitled to ask for it back, and your supplier must refund it. If your supplier thinks the credit should be withheld, it must clearly explain the reasons why - but you can challenge this.
See Martin Lewis: Energy bill credit – how much is too much? and our Energy direct debits help guide for more details.
~ MSE Clare
With standing charges rising, dave2319 asked if there's hope for the situation to change, especially since there have been calls for alternatives from MPs. Here's MSE Andrew's reply:
There has been a lot of discussion around standing charges this year as they’ve increased massively recently, which means cutting energy usage is less and less beneficial – counterproductive for saving money and for environmental targets.
Reducing standing charges is something Martin and MSE have campaigned for – you can see full info in Martin’s Why are standing charges so high? blog.
We ultimately don’t know how likely meaningful action on this is, that’s up to regulator Ofgem and the Government.
The main concern with reducing standing charges would mean shifting some of the burden onto the unit rates which could unfairly impact vulnerable high users, that need to use more due to a medical issue or disability. Of course, separate support for these households could help soften that impact.
~ MSE Andrew
You can read the rest of the questions and answers over on the Ask An Expert board.
❗️Remember: these questions were correct as of 29 September 2023 and won't be updated.
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