Fixed energy tariffs about to go up in smoke

13 July 2009 / by Rachael Stiles

Consumers who rushed to fix their energy tariff last year when energy prices were on the rise are about to come down to earth with a bump, so moneysupermarket.com is urging those coming off fixed tariffs to act now and get the best deal.

Last July, 70 per cent of those who switched gas and electricity suppliers opted for a fixed energy tariff, according to data from moneysupermarket, and many providers offered 12 month deals, such as npower and Scottish Power, so these customers should now be "scouring the market" for a the next best thing, urges the financial comparison website.

The best energy deal is currently an online plan, the British Gas WebSaver 3, moneysupermarket reveals, with online energy plans continuing to offer cheaper alternatives to energy providers' standard tariffs.

To avoid being moved onto an alternative tariff by their energy provider when the deal comes to an end, which could lead to them paying over the odds for gas and electricity, moneysupermarket recommends that customers think of switching at least four weeks before the fixed tariff finishes.

For example, moneysupermarket's research shows that when npower's One Tariff deal runs its course in the next few weeks, its customers could find themselves paying an extra £231 a year on their energy bills if they revert to a standard deal.

Customers of Scottish Power could find their bills jump by an even bigger £340 a year when their fixed tariff ends on August 31, moneysupermarket warns.

Scott Byrom, utilities manager at moneysupermarket.com, explains that while fixed rate energy deals might have been "in vogue" last year, saving households an average of £134.50 a year, "bill payers now need to be aware that the big increases they could face when their current deal ends could wipe out any savings that they made when they fixed last year."

Mr Byrom also highlights the importance of switching at the right time. "Timing is crucial when proactively looking for a new energy product, move off your fixed rate too early and you could face termination fees of up to £75. Move too late and you might find yourself automatically switched to the standard deal or locked into a less attractive fixed deal which isn't the best as we move into autumn and winter weather," he said.

While fixed tariffs offer short-term protection from future energy price rises, and might have represented the best value this time last year, Mr Byrom warns that they may no longer offer the best value for households, as energy prices could be on the way down following last year's increases of 47 per cent for gas and 28 per cent for electricity.

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