Most of us are familiar with the direct energy salespeople who go door to door or run stalls in shopping centres and supermarkets. Almost 7 million households in the UK have taken out an energy plan with a direct energy salesperson, but research from the price comparison site uSwitch.com suggests that many people aren’t happy with the deal they get and that they may end up paying more, rather than less, for their energy as a result.
uSwitch found that less than a quarter of people who switch with direct energy salespeople (22%) believe they got a good deal, and of these, only 6% said that it significantly cut their bills. Over a third of those polled (37%) thought that energy salesmen didn’t give them enough information to make an informed decision and almost half (45%) didn’t like the fact that sellers only represent one energy supplier.
New rules from the energy regulator Ofgem to govern doorstep energy selling came into force in January 2010. They state that anyone who is sold a new energy plan on their doorstep, on the high street or in a shop must be given a written quote before the switch can be finalised.
This change does offer you greater protection, but you still need to be wary. The written quote only means you have proof of the deal you were offered - it’s no guarantee that it’s the cheapest plan for you. What it does mean, however, is that you have written quote that you can take away and double-check to make sure it really is the best deal.
Use these top ten tips for doorstep energy switching to be sure you end up with an energy plan that’s right for you.
- Make sure you know which gas and electricity supplier the salesperson works for.
- Find out what type of plan you are being offered and be sure to ask about their online energy plans - they are often the cheapest.
- Before they tell you how much money you could save, the seller should ask:
- Who supplies your gas and electricity and what plan you are currently on.
- How you pay for your gas and electricity – e. g. prepayment meter, cash, cheque or direct debit.
- Where you live (a single plan from a supplier may have different prices depending which energy region your postcode falls into).
- What your energy consumption is, how much you spend each month or details about your property and the number of people that live there.
- Make sure they give you a full quote telling you what your new annual bill would be so that you can go away and compare energy prices.
- Are there any additional incentives, like shopping vouchers or reward points, and how much are they worth?
- Have these incentives been factored into the annual bill? (They shouldn’t be. )
- If the plan being offered is dual fuel (where you get both gas and electricity from the same supplier) and you’re paying by direct debit, have they included the discounts you should get?
- Does the plan have a standing charge?
- Is there a long-term contract and, if so, are there any exit penalties?
Make a note of the salesperson’s name and ID number – you can contact them if you decide you want to switch after double-checking that they really are offering you the cheapest deal, and you’ll also have a point of reference if there are any problems.