Cheque Users Losing out on Energy Bills

New research by Which? Money has found that customers paying their energy bills by cheque could be paying almost £100 more on average over a year than paying by direct debit. The research looked at the standard annual duel-fuel tariffs available across the six biggest energy companies  – British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE. The difference in price between paying by quarterly cash and cheque and monthly direct debit came to an average of £98.60 over the course of a year. In order to get the UK-wide average price, annual costs were obtained for each region of the country with an average taken from each.Cheque users missing out Research by charity Age UK shows that use of direct debits to pay utility bills decreases directly with age, particularly among the over 70s. Many younger consumers, especially those in low-income households, also feel that direct debit gives them less control than other payment methods. Energy companies normally offer a discount to people who pay by direct debit as it guarantees payment to them and makes the account easier and cheaper to manage. Some companies do offer prompt payment discounts if you pay by cash and cheque on time, though these won’t be as high as the ongoing discounts given to direct debit customers. Which? researcher Alex Kouzarides commented: ‘While it may suit the energy suppliers to manage direct debit accounts, many people still prefer more traditional methods or simply have no choice in their circumstances. It’s vital that utilities companies develop fair and inclusive systems that ensure all consumers are given a fair deal.’ The full article entitled ‘Time to cheque out?’ features in the December issue of Which? Money magazine.

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