How to get the best energy deal

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Gas has got more expensiveEnergy companies have been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, with an undercover investigation by consumer champion Which? concluding that providers are giving inaccurate information to people who ring up to switch.

So how can you ensure you end up with the best value tariff? We reveal the five questions you should ask to get the best deal.

With price increases of up to £190 a year now taking effect, the average annual household energy bill is now £1,300. Even the government has been urging consumers to switch and save where they can.

But more than a quarter of customers looking to switch rely on telephone advice from energy suppliers to get a better deal.

To ensure you get the best tariff, though, it is a much better idea to use a comparison site to find out what rival suppliers are offering.

Once you have done your research, you should then ask these questions over the phone (unless of course you are happy to switch online).

What is the cheapest online deal available?

The cheapest energy deals are usually online, dual-fuel tariffs, so you should definitely ask about a tariff of this kind.

However, Which? researchers found that firms failed to offer their cheapest tariff in nearly a third of the calls - despite clearly being asked for the cheapest deal. That's why it is vital to have the information from the comparison sites at the ready when making a call.

How do fixed-rate tariffs compare?

Many consumers who have been burnt by the recent energy price hikes are keen to protect themselves against future increases by signing up for a deal that has a fixed price for one, two or even three years.

You pay more for the privilege, though, which is why it is worth asking about the cheapest tariffs as well.

Are there any exit fees?

According to Which?, one third of the energy company salespeople called did not mention relevant exit fees, while Scottish Power failed to reveal its £51 exit fees in nine of the 12 calls.

It is definitely worth pressing the point though as the exit fees on your current deal could make it more sensible to wait to switch. If prices fall, you could also end up trapped in a poor-value deal further down the line if you fail to check the fees on the tariff to which you want to switch.

Are there any cashback deals available?

Researchers found that while British Gas staff offered its cheapest tariff in ten out of the 12 calls, it offered wildly varying cashback deals alongside the deal.

Some callers were offered up to £175, while others were offered nothing at all. Asking this question could therefore result in a nice cashback bonus that you would otherwise miss out on. what you should get.

Can I get a discount if I pay by direct debit?

Many energy suppliers offer discounts to those customers who agree to pay by direct debit.

Asking this question could therefore get you cheaper gas and electricity, while paying by direct debit should also help you to avoid missed payments.

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