It won’t surprise you to learn that I get asked a lot these days to write about cutting energy bills by using some energy consuming items around the home less.
To be honest, while you can trim some money from your energy bill, in practice, the savings aren’t great (£200 to £300 if you follow all the energy saving tips, depending on your home and family size). I really worry about the older people who tell me they’ve stopped using the cooker and kettle for fear of higher bills. There are better ways to save cash that don’t involve doing without.
One of the best options is switching your broadband provider. I’ve finally got round to doing this and have saved over £500 a year – which is twice the amount I’d have saved if I followed every single piece of energy saving advice.
In addition, there’s a little-known way to save a small fortune on your broadband bills if you get certain benefits…
The cost-of-living crisis focused the Government’s attention not just on energy, but on other sectors that provide essential services. The new deals are known as ‘social tariffs.
According to regulator Ofcom, over 8 million people are potentially struggling to pay their broadband bills. What’s incredible though is the vast majority of people don’t know about social tariffs. A whopping 97% of people who are potentially entitled to social tariffs are not currently on the better deals.
There are a few quirks and gaps with the new plans, for example, they’re not new regulations or law which means not every business is signed up. There’s quite a bit of variance on what benefits qualify you for the deal too. But overall, most people should be able to move contracts to a cheaper one without penalty. If in doubt, ask.
As a starting point, contact your broadband provider and ask them about the social tariff deals they have available, then see if you can find anything better elsewhere online. Prices range from around £10 to £20 a month, so it really is worth it. If you need faster broadband speeds for work or keeping in touch with your family and friends, then this is usually possible for a little more too.
You should be able to leave your existing deal mid-contract without having to pay an exit fee. In addition, set up costs should be minimal, there will be no mid-contract price rise and you should be able to leave without a fee too.
Most social tariffs are available to people who receive Universal Credit, but some include other benefits too.
What about people who don’t get benefits?
If you don’t qualify for any support with your current deal and you are mid-contract, you’ll need to get a bit crafty. You are usually stuck with exit fees which can be outrageously high. Nethertheless, if the business isn’t meeting its side of the contract, you might be able to leave early without charge, or at least renegotiate a better deal. Remember; contracts work both ways and if you aren’t getting what you paid for, ask to leave without a fee.
If the business has changed the way it operates, withdrawn services or introduced significant changes, you can ask to walk away and have the exit fees dropped. Make a complaint stating why explain why the contract has changed for the worse. This is especially useful if the price goes up mid-contract and you can’t afford it. You can go to the free ombudsman service if you’re unhappy. The same goes for poor service and the failure to address problems with the service.
If your broadband speed is poor, then tell the firm, take regular signal tests using one of the many free apps there are out there. That way you can demonstrate that there’s a problem the firm should let you go without charging you. If the business is not providing the average speeds it promised you, it’s possible to break the contract early.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.