Signing up to an energy deal that offers shopping vouchers, free gifts or other ‘added extras’ could swell your gas and electricity bills by hundreds of pounds a year, according to the latest Which? Affordable Energy Campaign research.
Energy companies vying for your custom try to make their deals stand out from the crowd using freebies such as shopping vouchers or added extras like charity donations. While they seem tempting, our research shows you’ll often end up paying more than if you were to get the cheapest deal on the market and pay separately for the ‘extras’.
Below we round up some of the energy tariffs currently available that, although not the most expensive on the market, aren’t quite as good as they seem.
Energy deals to avoid today
Even if you’ve avoided one of tariffs below, compare gas and electricity suppliers now to see if you’re on the cheapest deal you could be.
Free football kit vouchers – cost you £127
Npower’s Football 45 gives you up to £90 of vouchers to spend in any Football League club shop – but the gas and electricity tariff at the heart of this deal is Npower’s standard tariff which is £127 more than the cheapest tariff* currently on the market.
Which? says: if you want good value energy and new football kit, you’d be better off switching to a cheaper deal and buying the football merchandise separately.
Carbon offsetting – costs you £210
SSE’s Oplan is a ‘green’ tariff that offsets CO2 emissions and costs £210 more than the cheapest deal on the market*.
Which? says: we calculate that to offset the same amount of CO2 using a carbon offsetting company would cost you about £20. By paying to offset your own carbon and choosing the cheapest tariff, you’d be £190 better off.
Energy monitor – costs you £125
SSE iplan gives you a free energy monitor, but it’s £125 more a year than the cheapest tariff on the market.
Which? says: if it’s just an energy monitor you’re after, you’ll be better off signing up to the cheapest energy deal on the market and buying an energy monitor separately. Which? Best Buy energy monitors start at less than £30.
Marks and Spencer vouchers – cost you £148
M&S Energy promises up to £70 of M&S vouchers.
Which? says: get the cheapest deal on the market instead and you’ll have £148 to spend at Marks & Spencer, instead of £70.
See our table below for more examples of tariffs to avoid.
Older tariffs to switch away from
If you’ve been on the same deal with the same company for a long time, the chances are your tariff has grown less competitive as the market has changed.
Fixed tariffs after price rises – costs you £196
During the last round of price rises (summer 2011) in particular, energy companies offered some very long term fixed tariffs apparently hoping to cash on from people’s panic.
Scottish Power Fixed Price January 2015
Which? says: this deal fixed prices up to January 2015 but it is now £196 more expensive than the cheapest fixed deal (Fixed Energy July 2013) offered by Scottish Power. Scottish Power is now offering a newer fixed deal that also goes until 2015 (Help Beat Cancer Discounted Energy January 2015) and that’s £111 cheaper.
Npower Price Fix 2013
Which? says: this is another fixed tariff that launched last year – but those who signed up to it could be paying £135 more than the cheapest tariff* available today, for what is quite a short fixed period. Another fixed deal available today (Scottish Power Fixed Saver June 2013) is £48 cheaper and is fixed for a further five months.
Free energy monitoring tools – cost you £126
Scottish Power’s Unifi (Capped November 2013 SC online) gives you a display unit and facilities (apps and a website) to check and control your electricity use.
Which? says: it’s £126 more than Scottish Power’s cheapest deal and has a maximum cancellation charge of £152.06. If it’s just an energy monitor you’re after, you’ll be better off getting on the cheapest deal and buying an energy monitor separately.
Energy tariffs to avoid
|10 energy deals you should avoid|
|Tariff name||What you get||Yearly cost* (£)||Cheapest deal from same supplier||Difference (£)||Difference with cheapest deal on the market* (£)||Which? says|
|Npower Football 45||Up to £90 vouchers to spend to any Football League club shop||1131||£1,044 (Bill Saver August 2013)||87||127||Only £45 vouchers in year one, next £45 after 12 months. This is actually a ‘standard’ tariff – and standard tariffs are not the cheapest. If it’s a cheap deal you’re after, you would save by going onto the cheapest deal on the market and buying your football merchandise directly.|
|SSE Energyplus Pulse||£10 donation to the British Heart Foundation for joining and a further £10 each year||1162||£1,129 (Fixed discount April 2014 with iplan)||33||158||One of the free ‘add ons’ you can get with SSE on its standard tariff. Standard tariffs are not the cheapest. You could make a larger donation to the BHF by going on a cheaper deal and giving the difference (£158) to the BHF.|
|SSE iplan on Fixed Discount April 2014||Free smart energy kit (includes an energy monitor)||1129||£1,129 (Fixed discount April 2014 with iplan)||0||125||If it’s just an energy monitor you’re after, buy one separately and save £125 by going on the cheapest tariff in the market.|
|M&S Energy Standard (no SC)||Up to £70 M&S vouchers||1152||£1,152 (Standard no SC)||0||148||Vouchers are conditional (for going paperless, reducing energy use or staying for a minimum of 12 months) so you might not get the full £70. By choosing a cheaper deal you would actually save more than £70.|
|British Gas Standard Energy extra 50||Includes emergency call out protection||1194||£1,1118 (Online energy)||76||190||This is £27 a year more than a standard tariff due to the Energy Extra 50 service charge. Repairs are charged in addition to your monthly fee. Only guarantees same day or next day latest engineer visit for central heating (when experiencing either no heating or hot water) and fixed priced repairs. If it’s boiler and heating protection you’re after, Scottish Power Platinum Fixed Energy July 2013 Online is £1,209 a year (£15 more) and includes annual boiler service and safety check. whereas the BG Energy extra 50 charges £65 for an optional boiler service.|
|SSE oplan||A ‘green’ tariff where emissions are offset (1.8 tonnes of CO2 for electricity and 1 tonne for gas)||1214||£1,129 (Fixed discount April 2014 with iplan)||85||210||While 1.8t CO2 represents average annual electricity consumption (3,300 kWh), 1 tonne for gas only represents a quarter of a customer’s annual gas emissions. You could instead offset your CO2 emissions directly on a carbon offsetting website for as little as £7 per tonne. And if you want a green tariff that actually generates clean energy, Good Energy’s dual fuel tariff is £1,292 a year, only £51 extra a year.|
|Npower National Trust Green Energy||A ‘green’ tariff with £30 donation to the National Trust Green Energy Fund on joining and £20 for subsequent years for dual fuel customers||1131||£1,044 (Bill Saver August 2013)||87||127||You’d be better off donating directly to the National Trust Green Energy Fund and going onto a cheaper tariff.|
|Scottish Power Unifi capped (November 2013 SC online)||Display unit and facilities (website, apps) to control electricity use||1141||£1,015 (Online Fixed Energy July 2013)||126||138||There is a maximum cancellation charge of £152.06 if you switch or cancel before November 2013. If it’s just an energy monitor you’re after, Best Buy energy monitors start at £30 – much cheaper than the £138 you’ll pay by not going with the cheapest deal on the market. Or if you want that level of control, use a smart meter tariff such as First Utility’s.|
|Scottish Power Fixed Price January 2015||Fixed prices until December 31st 2014||1211||£1,015 (Online Fixed Energy July 2013)||196||207||This tariff was introduced in June 2011 during the price rises. It’s cheaper to get a fixed tariff now, such as Scottish Power Help Beat Cancer (£1,100) which also goes until Jan 2015 but is £111 cheaper. So you could save by switching now as the savings are higher than the £51 cancellation fees.|
|Npower Price Fix 2013||Prices fixed until 1st January 2013||1139||£1,044 (Bill Saver August 2013)||95||135||There are cheaper fixed tariff available now, for example Scottish Power Online Fixed Saver June 2013 is £1,091 per year and fixes for slightly longer. It has no exit fee, so you could switch and save.|