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The Big Community Switch

It seems to be accepted advice that one should switch electricity suppliers every few years to make sure you get the best value for money. Indeed, I’ve read in the Money pages of the Sunday papers that if you don’t switch regularly, you’re very likely to be paying well over the odds. But it all seems such a huge hassle, and I’ve had limited energy for so long now that that was just one challenge too many. We’ve always been with npower, and I remember that one of the things that Christopher did when he was first made redundant was to move us onto a better tariff (though still with npower) to try to save us some money. Since then, though, I’ve been content to let matters lie.

However, I’ve been getting increasingly narked with npower. Their customer service really is atrocious. They were the company that insisted on sending bills to “the executors of the late Mr Booth” for a full year after he died, until I got extremely cross indeed with them. They’ve changed my meter without asking or even informing me (technically trespass as they had to access my land?) and seem totally incapable of getting a bill out on time. Plus of course the prices keep going up.

Last autumn, I read in the local newspaper about the “Big Community Switch”, organised by Malvern Hills District Council together with a number of other local councils across the country. Basically, they tried to get as many people as possible to sign up, then used that combined purchasing power in a Reverse Auction with a range of utility suppliers to try to get a better deal. I’m not actually within the Malvern Hills council jurisdiction, as I’m over the border in Herefordshire, but the small print basically said “the more, the merrier”. There was absolutely no obligation to take up any quote that was offered, so there was nothing to lose, and possibly something to gain. I’m sure I could have got similar results using uswitch or a similar comparison web site, but somehow this felt easier. And it was endorsed by a range of local councils, which made me feel more confident.

The deal I was offered promises to save me well over £100 per year, which is well worth having, so I signed up. It’s taken about two months for the switch to happen, but as of 1st February I am no longer an npower customer, and the lights have stayed on, so that’s a good sign. I’ve just had my final bill from them – or at least I’m hoping it is. I shall be keeping a very close eye on my bank statements to make sure that they’re not stealing my money! I now need to work out how to redeem the £12 or so of mine that I’d overpaid – without spending as much again on a premium rate phone line to “customer services”.

The jury’s out on how much money I’ll actually save, or whether customer service will actually improve. I’m sure that all the main electricity suppliers are as bad as each other in many ways. But having switched once, I’ll be less hesitant about doing so again in a year or so’s time, should I be unhappy with the price or service.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Joshua Benson | 5 February 2014 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gillian,

    I was really shocked and sorry to hear about Chris’s death. I worked with him about 5 years ago whilst on industrial placement at QQ. He was an inspiration to me, giving me heaps of self-confidence and the drive to succeed. I don’t think I would be where I am today without him. I hope you can take comfort in the blog, and I’m sure you have plenty of friends and family around you to get you through this difficult time. Let me know if you need anything.

    Thanks

    Josh

  2. Gillian | 6 February 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Hello Josh
    Thanks for getting in touch. It’s good to hear that you found Chris’s encouragement helpful in your early career. In fact I can remember him mentioning you over dinner, and saying how impressed he was with what you were achieving on what was really rather a tricky project. It’s a comfort that he touched so many lives in a positive way.

  3. paulD | 7 February 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Gillian,

    NPower are totally USELESS, they’ve even admitted it recently sending us 2 letters apologizing for completely screwing up their billing system, not to mention their irritating, condescending and arrogant automated meter reading telephone system !.

    Also worth switching is you ISP !, we’ve jumped broadband speed by upto 30% overnight switching from Plusnet to BT.