The Money Shot - ankle locks and guano

A watch dog
A watchdog, yesterday
"Your gas and electricity comes through the same wires and pipes no matter who you buy it from, so make sure you're not paying over the odds unnecessarily," Jeremy Cryer, Gocompare.com
  • | by Kristian Dando

The big six energy companies’ ankle lock-like grip on the UK energy market is well-documented.

In fact, much of the chatter around the energy debate in recent years has been about what can be done to diversify the market.

The answer usually involves getting smaller energy companies to play a bigger part.

This isn't as easy as it sounds – the smaller energy companies don’t have the enormous marketing budgets of the big six, and they often have to buy their power from them at way above the market rate.

However, Ofgem, the gas and electricity industry’s parish bobby-on-the-beat, has just unleashed a raft of measures due to come into force at the end of the month which it hopes will address this.

From 31 March, the big six won’t be able to fob off ‘reasonable’ requests by independent suppliers to buy electricity, or treat them as ‘low priority’. They’ll have deadlines for acknowledging requests, and will have to make sure they sell their power at the market rate.

The big six will also have to notify smaller suppliers of wholesale prices up to two years in advance.

Now, that’s all well and good, but what does it actually mean for consumers? We asked Gocompare.com’s resident energy sage Jeremy Cryer to venture an opinion.

“Increased competition in the energy market can only be a good thing, increasing choice and encouraging suppliers to offer attractive rates for gas and electricity,” pondered Cryer.

However the politicians and regulators can only do so much. The only person who can change the energy market is you – yes, you!

“Householders also need to be proactive when it comes to taking charge of their outgoings,” said Cryer. “Go to a comparison site armed with your latest bill and compare the tariffs available to find the best one for your energy consumption, location and circumstances. Your gas and electricity comes through the same wires and pipes no matter where you buy it from, so make sure you’re not paying over the odds unnecessarily.”

Short change – money news in brief

Speaking of the big six, Ofgem has just instructed them to hand back the £400m which is lying around in dormant business and domestic accounts, or else.

Exciting ‘re-brand’ news, folks. A bill has gone into Parliament which could see National Insurance become ‘earnings tax’.

Figures from the Global Retirement Index reckon that one in five pensioners will financially rely on their grown-up kids in old age.

Financial services firm RSA has ‘done a Bowie’ and waded into the Scottish independence debate, threatening to up-sticks from its Edinburgh base if there’s a yes vote.

On covered mag this week

Spring is just about to get sprung, so what better time to clean up your finances, reckons Abbie Laughton-Coles.

If you’ve suffered a ‘mare on holiday, here’s a guide to putting it right.

Phil Huff suffered the ignominy of having to drive a Maserati GranCabrio about the place under the pretence of ‘work’.

And finally

Spare a thought for residents of Macmillan Close in Hereford, who are undergoing a bombardment of bird droppings from a flock of 20,000 starlings who’ve pitched up nearby.

The vast swarm turns the sky black at dawn and dusk. It’s impressive, but it absolutely covers the place in poo.

“It's a lovely spectacle, but when you live in the flight path it's really not pleasant at all,” grumbled a resident.

The birds originate from Scandinavia, which means that this is officially the most destruction wreaked by the Norse on Hereford since the Vikings rolled into town and razed the place to the ground in 1055. Well, probably. (Anyone know where you can read more about this?? - medieval history ed)

That said, getting covered in guano is meant to be a portent of good fortune. The Money Shot now plans to spend the weekend parading around Macmillan Close bare-chested, before heading to the nearest shop and stocking up on lottery tickets and scratch cards. Clearly, next week’s edition will be written from a beach somewhere in the Maldives, its progress eased along with a sarcastically large pina colada.

Join us NEXT WEEK for another THRILLING instalment of the Money Shot.