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Four steps to the best energy deal

Kate RoseComplaints to the UK's big six energy firms are at a high. Kate Rose, head of gas and electricity at Confused.com, shares her four steps to consumer satisfaction.

Consumer group Which? says the first three months of this year saw complaints to the UK's big six energy firms jump to record levels.

British Gas, nPower, Scottish Power, SSE, E.On and EDF Energy received a combined total of 1.7 million complaints.

This is 15 per cent more than the 1.48 million they got during the first three months of 2013.

The big six energy firms supply the majority of the 27 million households in the UK with gas and electricity.

Poor customer service & higher bills

An electric fireIn other industries such as supermarkets and car insurance, being a big player can bring efficiency savings resulting in lower running costs, and more competitive prices.

In the energy industry being big seems to be have the opposite effect.

With large operations and ageing systems, the big six have struggled to get on top of customer service demands or their prices, which have doubled in the last 10 years.

Here are my four things we can all do to ensure we are getting the best deal from our energy supplier.

Four steps to getting the best energy deal

1. Take the time to understand your bill and if you are unsure ask

Energy bills make a large percentage of our monthly outgoings, so we should all understand what we are paying for. If you are unsure about your bills, don't understand what tariff you are on or are unclear as to why you are paying what you are paying contact your supplier and ask them to clarify things for you. All suppliers now have to provide the same information on their bills, and in a clear and simple way. This follows the introduction of new industry standards set out by Ofgem, the industry regulator. So once you understand your current bill it should be easier to understand any energy bill should you decide to switch supplier in the future.

2. If you are unhappy say so, and know your rights

If you feel that your energy provider is not treating you fairly or hasn't dealt with an issue you have raised to your satisfaction you have the right to complain. All suppliers have to display a complaints procedure on their site. Providing you following the correct procedure, if your complaint has not been resolved within 8 weeks you can take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman who will investigate the complaint and seek to resolve the issue in a fair and impartial manner.

3. Keep your account up to date

It’s easy to forget, but making sure you regularly provide your supplier with accurate meter readings could not only save you money but avoid complications with your bills or unnecessary issues. Accurate meter readings will ensure you are not paying too much or too little for the energy you are using.

4. Vote with your feet and switch!

Finally, if you are unhappy about the service you are getting, there are more than 20 suppliers to choose from so switch! Not only do the smaller energy suppliers regularly feature at the top of the customer service tables but some are offering some really competitive tariffs. Switching only takes a few minutes, is free and can result in cheaper bills too. Have a look at our energy best-buy table for the cheapest gas and electricity supplier.

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