Financial specialist Michael Lansdell asks: "Are you being ripped off by your utilities suppliers?"
If British Gas supplies your electricity, you might have had a rude homecoming. On 1 August, the company got summer off to a bang when it announced a whopping 12.5% increase in electricity prices. This affected over three million users from 15 September. What is maybe most galling for long-term customers is that it is the first electricity price rise from British Gas since November 2013, so many would not have felt the need to switch to a cheaper tariff and have therefore been caught out. British Gas had previously announced that it was freezing prices until August, but the sheer size of the increase would have taken a lot of people by surprise.
Switching energy deals is something that has been talked about for a very long time. We all know we should do it – or, at the very least, check that we are paying the right price for our utilities. In March, a government-backed study found that millions of people are still paying too much for their gas and electricity. It found that the ‘big six’ energy companies are overcharging, with a cross-party group calling for drastic measures to protect consumers from being ripped off . In these ever-changing times though, it may not be the best tactic to wait until the government does anything.
Despite all the publicity about switching, still not enough people are doing it, according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). In 2016, the CMA concluded its investigation into the energy market, and set out a range of reforms for how it should be modernised . It found that 70% of domestic customers of the ‘big six’ are still on an expensive ‘default’ tariff and should switch to a cheaper one in order to stop wasting money. The amount of UK customers switching supplier did increase by 30% last year , but the CMA says the market is nowhere near as competitive as it should be.
So, even if you are not a customer of British Gas whose hand has been forced by the latest increase, this is a reminder that it really does pay to shop around, and, if you have been with the same supplier for while, start looking today. As a dental practice owner you will always be thinking about getting the best deals for your business, so why not apply the same financial savvy to household utilities?
Before we all get swept up in another busy season, and with Christmas just around the corner, take a look at your monthly bills. Utilities are key of course, but also look at things like your broadband provider, gym memberships and anything else that could be switched or cut loose to decrease monthly outgoings. Look after your home like you look after your business and you can help protect yourself from the impact of any nasty shocks.
For more information, visit www.lansdellrose.co.uk or call 020 7376 9333.
Michael Lansdell is a specialist dental accountant and tax advisor with strong technical and communication skills.
After completing his training with international accounting firm Deloitte he became a founding partner at Lansdell & Rose.
 Consumers being ripped off – report.
 CMA publishes final energy market reforms. Competition and Markets Authority, 24 June 2016.
 Energy bills: are UK customers finally starting to switch supplier? The Guardian, 27 February 2017.