Savvy savers search for better deals on energy

A spike in visits to price comparison sites and to energy suppliers in the wake of Scottish Power announcing a big increase in gas and electricity prices shows quite how savvy weíve become when it comes to budgeting.

Statistics from Experianís web monitoring agency Hitwise show that visits to Scottish Powerís website doubled in the two days following the announcement of a 19 per cent rise in gas prices and a 10 per cent hike in the cost of electricity on 6 June, as worried consumers looked for confirmation of the bad news and `set a baseline for finding a better deal.

There was a staggering 230 per cent increase in hits on price comparison sites, while visits to rival energy suppliers rose by more than 19 per cent ñ even though they are also expected to hike prices in the coming months. Over the week of the announcement, all searches for terms relating to gas prices shot up 130 per cent and searches for electricity prices jumped by 60 per cent.

ìWhatís interesting is that after this first flurry had subsided, there was a spike in visits to websites specialising in smart meters, which would allow people to see ñ and adjust ñ how much energy they use,î says Experian Interactive managing director Peter Turner.

ìWe are clearly far more savvy about budgeting than we were before the economic downturn, as out statistics show people searched for information very widely, visiting news and information-based sites as well as looking for better deals. We understand that we need to know all the facts before we commit ourselves to a new contract.î

Here are a few points to bear in mind if youíre among the 2.4 million households affected by the Scottish Power price rises, which come into force on 1 August ñ or if you simply want a better deal on energy.

ï It is wise to get out your old energy bills and try to work out how much gas and electricity you use, as well as the price ñ it may help you to identify the most appropriate tariff, as some are designed for low-use and others work out as better value over time when you use a lot of energy.

ï Given that other major energy suppliers are expected to announce price rises in the near future, itís a good idea to look for fixed price or capped deals.

ï Cut the amount of energy you use ñ for example, turn the thermostat down by a degree, set your hot water a few degrees cooler if you can or have it on for a shorter period every day and turn off appliances that are not in use instead of leaving them on stand-by.

ï Unless you prepay, an energy supply is a form of credit, so before you apply for a new deal, check your credit report. Suppliers will look at it before they decide whether you qualify for a deal, so it is best to be prepared to challenge any errors or add an explanation if special circumstances, such as illness, account for any missed payments, otherwise these could harm your chances of getting the best deals. Itís free to see your Experian credit report with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert.

ï Even if bills soar, never miss or delay a payment. It will be registered on your credit report for at least three years and could damage your chances of getting other credit, such as cards or loans. Instead, talk to your energy supplier and see whether you can change your payment schedule or pay off the excess in instalments.

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