The hidden way to get a better energy deal

Flames of gas stove

Autumn's here, there's a chill in the air, and many people are starting to worry about their energy bills.

According to Energy, next Sunday is the day that most Brits plan to turn on their central heating. However, its survey has found, nearly one in three people will be forced to delay doing it because of the cost.

So how can you cut your bills?

Gocompare, unsurprisingly, recommends using a price comparison site to shop around.

"There are currently some very competitive energy deals on the market and simply switching supplier can make a big difference – potentially slashing hundreds of pounds off your energy bills," says spokesman Ben Wilson.

"Literally, in the few minutes it takes to enter your details - which can easily be found on your last gas or electricity bill – you could be £366 better off."

However, there's another way of cutting the cost of heating that's sweeping the country: collective energy deals, whereby a group of customers band together and conduct a reverse auction, inviting suppliers to offer them a deal.

Suppliers like the arrangement, as it helps them target specific geographical regions and get round rules that limit the number of tariffs they have available.

Unlike their main deals, when a supplier offers a lower tariff to a 'closed group' collective it doesn't have to alert its full customer base.

"Instead of customers having to find a better deal alone, it makes energy companies compete for you and your fellow consumers' business," says Wilson.

"Using the collective bargaining power of heaps of customers means that you could potentially secure a better deal on your gas and electricity."

These deals are highly local, so won't show up in a general search. However some price comparison sites, including uSwitch, for example, have tools that let you enter your postcode to find out what's available in your area.

Many councils are getting in on the act, including Daventry. "People who have never switched energy providers stand to make the biggest savings, but even those who have switched in recent years might find they make further savings through the Big Switch," says councillor Jo Gilford.

Most outrageous bill mistakes
See Gallery
Most outrageous bill mistakes
Carol Sandford, 72, called 118 118 from her mobile phone unaware of the charges involved. Calls to the number cost £1.88 per call and there is also a £2.57 per minute charge from landlines. TalkTalk raises this to £5.68 for the first minute and £3.28 per minute after that. TalkTalk told Carol the charge £81.12 charge was correct but luckily 118 118 were kinder, offering to repay the charge in full. Read the full story here.
One Londoner was more than a little confused when his debit card was declined while he was trying to buy just six bottles of American craft beers. But he quickly realised that instead of the £22.30 he owed, he had been charged £223,000! It's thought he punched in the PIN number before the machine was ready and it added the numbers to the total. Luckily the 28-year-old saw the funny side and laughed the incident off. Read more on the story here.

Early Lewis from Detroit was amazed to find his water bill was almost 100 times as much as he was expecting. The bill claimed that Lewis had used 3,740 gallons of water in just one hour. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the Water and Sewage Department admitted it was a mistake and subsequently charged Lewis the $36 he should have been charged initially. Read more on this story here

George MacIntosh, 73, was charged a staggering £200 for premium-rate gambling texts he didn't intend to sign up for. Unfortunately this wasn't a scam but a legal service from a company called Zamano. It seems the retired vicar had accidentally signed up after responding to an initial text from the company. Read the full story here.
Philip Groves was amazed to receive a £1,411 bill from Vodafone last year for his 10-year-old daughter Trinity's phone. It turns out Trinity had watched 28 hours of instructional loom band videos on YouTube, assuming her phone was using wifi. But the wifi had cut out, leaving her phone using the data allowance at it's highest rate. Vodafone refused to cancel the bill and threatened legal action. Read more here
Daniel Pontin was in for quite a shock after opening a gas bill charging him £31,000 for a year's worth of gas in a one-bedroom home. Pontin claimed his meter was broken when he moved in and was initially charged £35 a month for six months before he stopped receiving bills. When the huge £31,000 estimated bill arrived Npower told Pontin to ignore it while they investigated. Read the full story here
Read Full Story