SOARING bills have left millions trying to use less fuel – but a two-tier charging system has been condemned for discriminating against the poor.
Some power firms charge far more for an initial amount before the price dives for the rest of the fuel used.
Retired accountant Clive Georgeson, aged 81, of Dronfield, says it means low fuel users pay a higher overall rate than high users. And since the less well-off tend to use less fuel it means poorer people are being discriminated against.
The Star today launches a campaign backing Clive’s call for an end to two-tier pricing and a return to a standing charge – to cover distribution costs – and a single rate for fuel.
Clive said: “Administratively the cost to the company is the same for every user, which means firms make less from those who use less. They correct this by having a two-tier tariff. I think this is unfair. This is not the fault of the directors of fuel companies; they are employed to make the maximum profits for shareholders and these unfair tariffs contribute to their profits.
“It is the fault of the Government and Ofgem which allow them to discriminate.”
A spokeswoman for energy watchdog Ofgem said its research showed the average dual fuel bill now stood at £1,345 and, following recent price rises, estimated suppliers’ profit margins have shot up from £15 per year in June to £125 per year today.
She said: “We want to sweep away two-tier tariffs for the majority of customers and our proposed reforms support that.
“Our review of the energy market found competition was being stifled by a combination of tariff complexity, poor supplier behaviour and lack of transparency. We hope firms sign up to these proposals because that will benefit consumers a lot quicker. With agreement we could start implementation next autumn.”
SCOTTISH and Southern – one of the big six power companies – charges a primary and secondary rate.
Costs for each unit of electricity plunge once a certain amount is used.
On a recent electricity bill, the three-month period was split in half. The primary rate was 15.31p per unit, falling to 11.29p. For the second half of the bill period the primary rate was 19.16p per unit, falling to 12.14p.
A spokeswoman said they planned to ‘simplify’ tariffs – but not until next year.
She added: “The message from customers and consumer bodies has been clear: radical action is needed – not just to tackle tariff complexity but to eliminate it.”
Dilemma over staving off cold
WITH fuel bills of more than £100-a-month, pensioners Sylvia and Cyril Land are wondering whether to heat just one room this winter.
The Dronfield couple have loft and wall insulation and double glazing.
But rocketing fuel prices have left them debating the best way to stave off the cold without breaking the bank. And everything is up for consideration.
Sylvia, aged 71, said they had seen their bill for heating their two-bed bungalow double in three years.
She added: “It’s frightening, there’s not much more insulation we can do and we’re very strict with the heating. But we’ve not got to the big freeze yet this winter.
“If we turn off the radiators in unused rooms they feel like a mortuary – we could rent out space for bodies! But we don’t know what’s most efficient
“We are bewildered as to how we can make our home comfortable without it costing too much.”
Action Desk has these tips:
It is better to turn down or turn off radiators in unused rooms. Thermostatic radiator valves allow individual temperatures to be set, grants towards installation may be available.
Call the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512012.
It is cheaper to switch the central heating on and off as needed, rather than leave central heating on at a low temperature all the time.
Find draughts using smoke from a burning incense stick.
Block unused fireplaces.