Utility Bills

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Suppliers are always changing their tariffs and prices. For example many gas and electricity companies now provide both gas and electricity packages known as "dual fuel" deals which can mean good discounts or reduced prices. Telephone companies charge different rates at different times of the day for local, national and mobile telephone calls or offer cheaper international calls.
 
Don't be afraid to switch suppliers. Find the right package that suits your way of life as this may not always be the package that looks cheap at first glance, much will depend upon your pattern of consumption.
 
Switching to another supplier should not mean a significant disruption or interruption of your supply. In the case of gas and electricity because the suppliers use the same infrastructure (wires, pipes and meters) there should be no interruption at all.
 
Your new supplier will make all the necessary arrangements for the switch to take place. In the case of gas and electricity you should always make sure that you take a final meter reading so that your current supplier can produce an accurate final bill. You should also ensure that you cancel any direct debits with your current supplier.
 
Paying your bills by direct debit will usually qualify you for a discount from utility companies in respect of services such as Gas and Electricity. You will be able to make a fixed monthly payment and this will help you budget effectively.
 
However the difficulty with monthly direct payments is that you may find on receipt of your quarterly bill that your consumption exceeds what you are paying. This means that you will continue to roll over deficit amounts into your bill each quarter. Whilst the utility company will often contact you to revise your monthly payments if this occurs, they may not do so immediately and it is important that you keep an eye on your quaterly bill. If you have a deficit then consider making a one-off payment to clear it and put you back on track or consider contacting the utility company yourself to revise your monthly payments.
 
There are 4 main payment methods for gas and electricity:
 
1. Budget Plan - the utility company will average your previous bills over a period of a year and allow you to make similar quarterly payments based on this.
 
2. Instalments - this is suitable where you do not have a bank account . The utility company may allow you to split your quarterly bill into 3 or more monthly 
payments.
 
3. Pre-payment meters - You have a right to request the installation of a gas or electricity meter, however these have a higher standing charge and the supply will stop if no money or tokens is fed into the meter. Anyone who is in arrears with their gas or electricity payments must be offered a meter as a last resort before being disconnected.
 
4. Direct Payments from benefits - if you owe over a certain amount to your gas or electricity company and you are claiming either Income Support, Pension Credit or income-based Job Seekers Allowance then you can have deductions made from your benefit. This is known as "Fuel Direct".
 
When you receive your gas and electricity bills make sure that they are not estimated bills. If they are then ensure that you take a meter reading and pass this on the utility company as you may have been overcharged for your usage.
 
In respect of mobile telephones it is possible to purchase "pay as you go" packages whereby you use top up cards or add small amounts to your account each time. In this way you can monitor and control how much and how often you make calls. Similarly with a land line it is possible to have pay phones installed in the home.
 
Depending on your water consumption it may be more cost effective to move to a metered system rather than paying one annual amount based on the outdated rateable value of your home. Since April 2000 it has been possible to request the installation of a water meter free of charge and to be charged on the basis of the water you actually use. You are entitled to revert back to the non-metered system within 12 months if you change your mind. However, metered water is likely to be more expensive in the case of families as their water consumption may be higher than that of a single person or a couple who are out for most of the day. Contact your water company as they can advise you whether or not your bills are likely to be higher.
 

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