The move that could knock hundreds off your bills

Is it time to ditch the big brands?

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Mistake that could knock hundreds of your household bills

The 12% price hike from British Gas is the latest clobbering a big player has dealt hard-up consumers.

Having reported the shock move on Wednesday, we now urge you to fight back by thinking seriously small - and not just in terms of energy.

See also: Vital insurance you need in your 30s − and what to pass on

See also: British Gas price increase: How you can avoid the £76 hike

Ditching bigger brands on everything from mobile deals to home sales can mean huge savings. Here are some of the lesser-known options.

3million homes to get energy bills cut – who's benefiting and how to save even more

Energy

Credits: PA

British Gas announced a price hike for millions of customers last week

A new gas and electricity firm has launched and hopes to take on our biggest energy suppliers, claiming to undercut their prices by 20%.

Pure Planet - a 100% renewable energy supplier - works on a membership model, charging customers a £10-per-fuel monthly fee to access wholesale prices with no mark-up.

For a typical three-bed home in the North West, Pure Planet claims to charge, on average, 20% less than the Big Six - British Gas, SSE, Npower, Scottish Power, E.ON and EDF Energy. For example, the average bill with Scottish power is £1,165 but this drops to £891 with Pure Power, a saving of £275.

Customers type and send queries via mobiles, rather than ringing a call centre.

3.1 million British Gas customers to see electricity bills hike £79 - but there's one way out of it

Broadband

Sick of slow downloads, bad customer service and poor-value contracts from BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky?

After the Advertising Standards Authority criticised our biggest internet service providers over misleading ads, maybe it's time to consider a broadband firm you have never heard of.

In a recent Which? survey, Zen Internet, a small company based in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, topped the table with a "customer score" of 86%, followed by Utility Warehouse at 81%.

Virgin Media to hike prices for 5 MILLION households in November - the packages affected and how to get out of it

Hyperoptic charges £16 a month and you don't need a BT line, plus you can sign up for a "no contract" deal with no minimum term, so you can switch when you like.

Pop Telecom's unlimited basic broadband deal costs £17.99 a month, including line rental, while Direct Save Telecom offers an annual contract you can pay up front for £174, which is £14.50 a month, including line rental.

Mobile phone

The mobile network market is dominated by four major players - EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.

And with different networks offering similar deals for data and minutes at wildly different rates it can be confusing and costly.

By switching to a sim-only deal with Giffgaff, customers can save huge amounts on monthly outgoings and do away with handset fees which can top up bills.

The mobile network that lets you call and use data free in America, Brazil and Singapore - Three fires latest shot in roaming wars

"Community-run" Giffgaff doesn't have a call centre. Instead questions are answered online by other customers. They say this keeps costs down and allows them to offer "great value plans". The key selling point is they don't tie you in on long deals .

Giffgaff launched in 2009 as a virtual operation, which means it piggybacks off another network - its parent company O2. Giffgaff £20 goodybag - the firm's term for pay-as-you-go plans - gives unlimited minutes, texts and data and is the most expensive option. A similar plan on rival networks costs £36 a month.

Shopping

Shoppers can cut their bills by up to 70% by buying at discount websites

Approved Food is an online discount specialist stocking 2,000 items that are surplus or close to their best before date.

Offering savings of up to 70% on supermarket prices, nothing with a use-by date is sold - meaning you can stock up on everyday essentials like pet food, soft drinks and booze without risking being out of pocket.

Nifties was set up last year by Nathaniel and Bethany Richards in Dover and has been a hit with locals thanks to its ultra-low prices. Items cost an average 60p.

He buys around 80% of his stock from retailers who want to flog surplus goods or rejected items, including products that are damaged or have passed their best-before date.

Farmers give him wonky veg that supermarkets would turn away, while the remaining 20% of stock is donated by manufacturers and other businesses. The store has proved so popular that Nathaniel is planning to open two more of them - one will be in Lewisham, South East London, and the other somewhere in Thanet, Kent.

House selling

Huge commission fees from pushy estate agents could be a thing of the past thanks to a host of new online services.

99Home is the latest virtual estate agency to launch in Britain and it believes it is the cheapest.

The £99 fee gets your home listed on the agency's own website, as well as the Zoopla, PrimeLocation and Rightmove portals - where 95% of buyers first look for a new home.

The site joins a string of other firms such as HouseSimple, eMoov and Sarah Beeny's Tepilo in offering internet marketing of homes. Most of them charge £500 to £1,000.

Purplebricks, the largest "newstyle" agency, employs some 650 property experts around the country to offer help to online sellers.

Home sellers are paying out £4,000 to estate agents - as they rake in £4billion a year

YOPA also has a network of local agents who will value and market your home and negotiate to get you the best price for a flat fee of £839.

The average UK home now costs about £221,000, according to the Halifax building society. Sold through an online agent, the maximum fee is £1,000 compared to a traditional estate agent charging 1% or 1.25% commission (some more) - making it from £2,210, plus VAT.

For larger homes, the online agency fee stays the same.

But beware, as many of the online agent fees are usually up-front and non-returnable if there is not a sale.

Most outrageous bill mistakes

Most outrageous bill mistakes


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