Some people are nervous about doing too much online, and may be attracted to energy comparison companies which advertise a ‘send us your energy bill’ service. These switching services, which ask you to send them a physical bill or copy, together with your contact details and your preferred method of contact, usually say that is all they need to compare the offers on the market and get back to you with a recommendation. They suggest that they will be able to give you a quote just on that basis.
Although that’s what is promised, it’s hard to see how a proper comparison and accurate quote can be based on a single bill. For the job is to be done properly, the company would have to get back to the customer and get a lot of other information. Even if the bill that’s sent is based on two actual rather than estimated readings, it is likely to cover a three month period only. While it’s possible to make assumptions about annual usage on that basis, such an assumption may not be accurate.
If the bill you produce is for one of the winter quarters, and your house is particularly well insulated, it could be assumed that there will be more of a difference from the summer months than is actually the case. If you are elderly or not very mobile, and stay at home most of the time in winter, then there will be more of a seasonal difference than there would be for someone who’s out at work all day five days a week year round.
So if you are going to use a comparison service which invites you to send them a bill, then it’s important to send an annual statement, or bills based on actual readings covering a whole year. It’s also sensible to check whether the service has Ofgem accreditation, called the Confidence Code, and only proceed if it does.
Having sent off your bill, you will still need to interact with the service to let them know more details about the sort of account you want. If that further contact is over the phone, then don’t agree to anything without taking time to think about it. The best deals are usually online ones, whether or not you have taken your first steps towards switching by sending a copy bill in the post. And even online accounts usually allow some business to be done offline. Many of them allow you to sign up for the account over the phone, and just about all of them let you provide a ‘customer’ meter reading that way.
The only thing that usually costs extra if you don’t want to do it online is the provision of account statements. Online accounts generally charge about £12.00 per year if you want to receive regular statements in the post, rather than just checking online. If you feel nervous about internet security, then you may prefer to get your statements through the post and pay that small charge.
There are other advantages to requesting paper statements for your online energy account. Account statements are sometimes needed for various identification purposes, benefit applications, applications for tenancies or library membership being some examples. If you don’t get paper statements regularly, then you may need to request them as a one-off from the company when the need arises, as printed out internet statements are not always accepted. There will be a charge for providing a one-off statement.
So, if you’re unsure about using the internet, you can have an internet energy account without really needing to use a computer at all. The internet aspect of the account can be useful though. Many people appreciate being able to check their usage history. For example, if you have phoned in with a meter reading, you can check whether it’s been recorded properly online.
If you’ve opted to receive paper statements for your internet account, then, when the time comes to think about switching again, you will have the information there on paper, ready to enable a fair comparison between the deals on offer, whether or not you go via a send us your energy bill service this time round.
Laura Ginn knows that sending your bill to a supplier is only one way of reducing the cost of your home energy. She siggests that people visit uSwitch.com today and learn how they can save money by comparing prices and switching to a cheaper energy supplier.