Our brand new What the F(inance) series is a space for older people to share their views on money news that matters to them.
The series will be exploring a variety of current affairs, ongoing issues and different opinions that affect you financially, all commented on or written by local people.
It used to be that loyalty was rewarded, however, over recent years the energy suppliers have turned that concept on its head; the longer you stayed with a supplier the more they surreptitiously increased the price.
Attractive tariffs became the preserve of new customers, hence the emergence of ‘money saving experts’ and a slew ‘switching’ companies including USWITCH. Go Compare, Switchcraft etc., who encourage you to change supplier annually to obtain the best prices.
I stayed faithful to British Gas for many years before succumbing to a ‘switcher’ who set me up initially with another ‘big six’ supplier at an advantageous tariff. The premise of the ‘switchers’ though is that year on year, they will get you a saving on the cost of your energy.
This seems to me a rule of diminishing returns as eventually, you must run out of even-cheaper supply. Sure enough last year I was switched to a people’s co-operative, whose first email after they’d set me up as a customer was to inform me that their head office had suffered a data security breach!
The monthly amount offered was truly attractive but, unfortunately, after the first month was hiked up by 14% and I had the unprecedented burden of feeding in meter readings for both gas and electricity every month.
I suffered in silence realising that I could switch supplier in a few months time and would then insist on a big six supplier, even if at a premium. Things came to a head when I was scanning my paper to read that my supplier had collapsed due to the huge spike in wholesale gas prices.
I was aghast and never having been in this situation previously, I avoided using a switch company and instead directly arranged to transfer to British Gas the next day, on their variable rate over two years but at a premium of 25% on my existing deal.
I figure that ease and security of supply must take precedence.
It is now a worrying time, especially for vulnerable pensioners, as the energy market is beset by a perfect storm: clement weather has meant that green wind power has been stunted; Russia has curtailed European supplies as geopolitics play out, and a vital undersea supply line has ruptured and cannot be fixed until March at the earliest.
Hence not only hikes in domestic gas and electricity, but also probable food price spikes and limited supply as carbon dioxide, needed in food processes, will be in critically short supply, in part due to Brexit as crops rot unharvested in the fields.
Never has the choice between food or heating poverty seemed such a stark possibility as the autumn closes in and pensioners juggle their financial resources to try to keep both warm and fed.
Is there anything the government can do to mitigate these Black Swan events? Already special loans are being mooted to prop up some of the energy suppliers of whom it is expected that from a peak of 70, only about ten will survive.
The energy prices contain hidden taxes to help achieve climate goals…so can these green taxes be suspended perhaps?
Or maybe the proposed easing of the pensions triple lock may have be rethought, certainly until this crisis is behind us.
What do you think? Leave us a comment or send your thoughts to [email protected]