Just a gentle enquiry about post-switching expérience / estimated usage, etc

SPOILER: This is not a complaint (it’s not praise, either!)

I’ve been with Bulb since April. I was previously with npower (and I was quite happy with them).

I’m a very low user of electricity. I use no heating. Just lights, the kettle, the TV, and charging my iPads, etc.

I was persuaded to switch to Bulb during the intensive switch promotions that happened last Spring. The attraction in changing was the (much) lower cost.

I gave uSwitch and Bulb my yearly meter readings from npower and details of my monthly Direct Debit payments. Bulb quoted me around £14+ per month as against £25 a month with npower.

A few months later, Bulb asked me to increase my payments to £23. No problem; it’s still less than npower.

Today Bulb asked me to increase my payments to £28+ (as I am in arrears).

There has been no increase in my usage (I log my usage every day).

So… I’m wondering how come my monthly Direct Debit payments have doubled in six months.

Bulb had my annual usage before I signed up. On signing up, I understand that the usage was verified with npower.

So why was the original payment set too low by Bulb? Why was the pre-signing up quote too low? And why is my bill now greater than it would have been with npower? (If I remember correctly, npower were going to fix the price for me at around £25 or slightly more for twelve months).

This doesn’t look right, does it? This looks in the face of it like some kind of ‘bait’ to draw me in to Bulb.

I appreciate that, quite possibly, I may end up paying a tiny bit less (or more) over the year than with npower.

But that’s not the point, is it?

Switching costs money. It may not cost me much… but it costs npower and Bulb.

And let us not forget the very basic teaching we were given (hopefully) in our childhood or at school.

The man who is dishonest in small things will also be dishonest in larger matters.

To repeat, this is not a complaint. It’s not praise either. It’s an eyebrow gently raised and a quizzical expression on the face.

For the moment.

SPOILER ALERT: Still not a complaint…

The more I think about it, the more my billing disquiets me. I’m starting to feel very uncomfortable about the whole process.

To repeat, it’s not the amount that’s in question. It’s the question about honesty.

Basing usage and switching decisions on the direct debit payment is bad practice, and suppliers should not be allowed to focus on it so much. There are so many reasons that the level of the direct debit payment could be wrong.

What everyone should look at when deciding whether to switch or not is the actual costs, the values that are used for calculating the bill. i.e., the unit rate (pence per kWh) and the daily standing charge (pence per day). If these are both lower than what you’re paying already, then you can be sure that your energy cost will be less. If only one of them is lower, then you’ll need to do a little maths to work out the cross over point in terms of your usage, but it’s really not difficult.

This is entirely irrelevant of how the direct debit level is calculated. Perhaps one company prefers you to be in a larger amount of credit and so suggests a higher direct debit payment. Perhaps another company is happy to accept you going into debt over the winter and so offers you a lower starting payment. If a supplier suddenly wants you to double your monthly payment, does that mean that your cost of energy has suddenly doubled? Of course not. It just means you’re paying more money into your account. In the same way that if your employer gives you a pay rise and starts paying more money into your bank account, it in no way automatically means your outgoing expenses go up as well, the two are not linked.

I don’t think focusing on the direct debit quotation is necessarily dishonest. It’s done to dumb things down in an attempt to make it easier for the average person to understand in terms of switching supplier. But as you’ve found it’s really not as simple as that, and people need to understand this and look at the actual cost of energy rather than simply looking at the total estimated cost.

It’s worth noting that all switching sites do have a “show me the tariff details” button. If someone chooses not to click on this and check the actual prices before accepting a switch then it’s quite likely they’re going to end up disappointed. The information is there, choosing to read it when making decisions is entirely up to the customer.

Have you provided monthly meter readings when prompted to do so by Bulb??? They need to be provided in a small window of a few days before your bill is generated. If not you have estimated bills and Bulb has a habit (as ALL the providers do) of INFLATING ESTIMATED bills by a significant amount. The solution is to provide monthly meter readings and to check and make sure Bulb are using them!!! If not, contact them!!! I’m also a very low user of electricity. My monthly payments are currently £20 although Bulb would like me to raise these to £30. I ignore this request as they have my monthly usage at £49. This is heavily inflated for no good reason as my last bill was for £35 and so I IGNORE that too!!! By the way I have a credit balance of a few hundred pounds.May be you should do the same as me and ignore the requests and stop worrying!!!
Bulb’s estimates when inquring to switch are based on VERY BASIC criteria and are quite often LOWER to encourage you to switch. It’s a sales ploy, but I forgive then for trying. In my area, based on unit rates alone, they are STILL the CHEAPEST and I check regularly!!

I ignore this request as they have my monthly usage at £49. This is heavily inflated for no good reason as my last bill was for £35 and so I IGNORE that too!!!!!!

If you summer bill was £35, then it seems to me that £49 per month averaged over 12 months (i.e., including the big winter bills) sounds about right. In fact £49 could even be too low given that winter bills are often double the summer bills. Do you not use any heating over the winter?

Have you provided monthly meter readings when prompted to do so by Bulb????? They need to be provided in a small window of a few days before your bill is generated. If not you have estimated bills and Bulb has a habit (as ALL the providers do) of INFLATING ESTIMATED bills by a significant amount. The solution is to provide monthly meter readings and to check and make sure Bulb are using them!!! If not, contact them!!!! I'm also a very low user of electricity. My monthly payments are currently £20 although Bulb would like me to raise these to £30. I ignore this request as they have my monthly usage at £49. This is heavily inflated for no good reason as my last bill was for £35 and so I IGNORE that too!!!!!! By the way I have a credit balance of a few hundred pounds.May be you should do the same as me and ignore the requests and stop worrying!!! Bulb's estimates when inquring to switch are based on VERY BASIC criteria and are quite often LOWER to encourage you to switch. It's a sales ploy, but I forgive then for trying. In my area, based on unit rates alone, they are STILL the CHEAPEST and I check regularly!!

Yes, I provide monthly readings when asked. (I actually provided readings more frequently).

You say that Bulb’s estimates are “often quite LOWER to encourage you to switch. It’s a sales ploy…”

And that, dear ky326vvb, is the whole point in a nutshell. You call it a ‘sales ploy’. If it’s true, then I’m going to be more honest. I’m going to call it fraud.

If what you say is true (and, at this stage, I don’t know if it is), then it would be both disingenuous (i.e. dishonest, fraudulent) and insulting to both me and npower to use a fictitious, fake quotation to secure a sale.

Basing usage and switching decisions on the direct debit payment is bad practice, and suppliers should not be allowed to focus on it so much. There are so many reasons that the level of the direct debit payment could be wrong.

What everyone should look at when deciding whether to switch or not is the actual costs, the values that are used for calculating the bill. i.e., the unit rate (pence per kWh) and the daily standing charge (pence per day). If these are both lower than what you’re paying already, then you can be sure that your energy cost will be less. If only one of them is lower, then you’ll need to do a little maths to work out the cross over point in terms of your usage, but it’s really not difficult.

This is entirely irrelevant of how the direct debit level is calculated. Perhaps one company prefers you to be in a larger amount of credit and so suggests a higher direct debit payment. Perhaps another company is happy to accept you going into debt over the winter and so offers you a lower starting payment. If a supplier suddenly wants you to double your monthly payment, does that mean that your cost of energy has suddenly doubled? Of course not. It just means you’re paying more money into your account. In the same way that if your employer gives you a pay rise and starts paying more money into your bank account, it in no way automatically means your outgoing expenses go up as well, the two are not linked.

I don’t think focusing on the direct debit quotation is necessarily dishonest. It’s done to dumb things down in an attempt to make it easier for the average person to understand in terms of switching supplier. But as you’ve found it’s really not as simple as that, and people need to understand this and look at the actual cost of energy rather than simply looking at the total estimated cost.

It’s worth noting that all switching sites do have a “show me the tariff details” button. If someone chooses not to click on this and check the actual prices before accepting a switch then it’s quite likely they’re going to end up disappointed. The information is there, choosing to read it when making decisions is entirely up to the customer.

Thank you for your response, Hooloovoo.

Maybe you didn’t quite grasp what I wrote.

I started with Bulb in April. During the research and quotation/due diligence part, I provided can accurate reading of electricity consumption over the preceding year. This was supplemented by the direct debit payments (as an extra measure).

The process was shepherded by an intermediary agent.

Bulb provided a quote for the forthcoming year based on my previous year’s usage, viz April to April. The quote was for a year based on usage divided by 12. In other words, the quote was a budget projection.

My usage has not changed. I use no heating neither in summer nor in winter. There is some small extra usage in winter, but not a lot.

Bulb today wrote to say that I am £41 in arrears. In order to meet the target budget projection, they are increasing the direct debit by £5 per month, following a previous increase a couple of months ago from c.£14 to c.£23. The monthly bill after 6 months will now be double the original budget payment.

Your response has made me more inquisitive. Why was the original amount set at £14? Was it, as has been suggested, as ‘bait’ to make a sale? And if so (and we don’t know at this stage that it was), would that not be dishonest?

ADDENDUM

It is difficult to see how I could be in arrears at the end of the summer if 1) I have provided monthly meter readings; 2) my usage has not increased; 3) Bulb have not increased their prices.

The only reason for such a discrepancy is that the original quotation was wrong. If so, why? Was it a mistake? Was it sharp practice? Was it fraud?

ADDENDUM

uSwitch tell me I’m on the cheapest tariff in my area by being on Bulb.

By being on Bulb, I’m saving £1.71 per year compared to e.on (the next cheapest).

If I was still with npower, I’d be paying just under £24 a year more.

ADDENDUM

So how did Bulb arrive at the original quote of c.£14 a month?

The only reason for such a discrepancy is that the original quotation was wrong. If so, why? Was it a mistake? Was it sharp practice? Was it fraud?

Well, this is a problem with a quantitative answer. You know the tariff costs, you know the annual usage that you entered, so you can run the calculation yourself and see if the expected annual total agrees with what uswitch told you.

ADDENDUM

So how did Bulb arrive at the original quote of c.£14 a month?

So after all your posts I have to ask why you decided to enter your direct debit details when seeking a quote or deciding to switch to Bulb rather then entering only your previous annul usage.

There is no fraud involved, the process is so simple you enter your previous annual energy usage. A cost wil appear showing the estimated cost for the year together with the tariff details.

Fellow customers have no idea why the original quote came out at £14 if you kepi records at the time you should know why the came out at this figure.

ADDENDUM

So how did Bulb arrive at the original quote of c.£14 a month?

So after all your posts I have to ask why you decided to enter your direct debit details when seeking a quote or deciding to switch to Bulb rather then entering only your previous annul usage.

There is no fraud involved, the process is so simple you enter your previous annual energy usage. A cost wil appear showing the estimated cost for the year together with the tariff details.

Fellow customers have no idea why the original quote came out at £14 if you kepi records at the time you should know why the came out at this figure.

Thank you for your comment, Allanr. As I point out, I sought a quote by providing both my latest annual usage from npower and, in a separate validation, my direct debit payments. Two separate validations, both of which produced the same quotation.

You make a good point. I’m taking it up with Bulb asking on what grounds the original quote was made. It may have been a mistake. Until an explanation is offered (and reflected on), I’m not rushing to judgment.

But it may not have been a mistake. It may have been, as has been suggested, a sales ploy. In which case, the question then to explore is the extent to which any such sales ploy is being used. At that point, it would clearly become a matter for Ofgen.

Thank you for the nudge towards looking into this further. You are quite right to prompt me and I appreciate your interest.

I note, in passing, that, for the two or three weeks immediately prior to the adjustment to my direct debit, I received a number of promptings from Bulb to recommend Bulb to my friends.

I note also in passing that, in the communication from Bulb advising me that my direct debit would be increased at the end of September, Bulb advised me that I would still be saving £254 a year on electricity when compared to the Big Six. I have since learned, prompted by the kind challenges by other Bulb members, that this is simply not true.

If Bulb had told me at the outset that I would save £25 a year on my electricity bill by switching from npower (source: current statistics via Bulb, npower and uSwitch, dated 5.09.2019), I would not have switched. It costs money to switch (not my money, but a cost to all the parties concerned). It is also disrespectful to npower. Although when I started with npower, their customer service left a lot to be desired, with a change of senior management, they had been making substantial and valuable improvements over recent years; and, with hindsight and the benefit of understanding increasingly more about Bulb’s approach to customer and bill management, I would have preferred to stay with npower and reward their diligence with loyalty.

To be fair, Bulb have always been polite and clear in the tone of all their communications with me to date. And, as they say, it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

So, again, thank you for your encouragement to look into the billing further. I’ll keep you posted.

The only reason for such a discrepancy is that the original quotation was wrong. If so, why? Was it a mistake? Was it sharp practice? Was it fraud?

Well, this is a problem with a quantitative answer. You know the tariff costs, you know the annual usage that you entered, so you can run the calculation yourself and see if the expected annual total agrees with what uswitch told you.

Thank you. Good point.

Following your prompting (and the prompting of a couples of other thoughtful members) I’m asking Bulb for their rationale behind the original quote and the original direct debit payments.

I’m also asking for the source of and rationale for their assessment that, following the direct debit increase at the end of September, I will still be saving £254 compared to the Big Six’s standard tariffs.

I’m grateful for your interest and your promptings to look into this further.

misterjohn

There is a saying if you put rubbish in you will get rubbish out. By this I mean if you incorrectly entered your previous annual usage incorrectly then your estimated costs will be incorrect.

I am just a fellow customer, but be assured if you entered your previous annual energy usage say via Uswitch then any costs provided would have been based on these usage and not some low costs to entice you in. Do you still have a record of what usage you provided to Uswitch or Bulb?

When you joined Bulb you were supplied with a Welcome pack in that pack it would have included the unit costs and standing charges, do you still have that Welcome pack, Uswitch would have used the same unit costs and standing charges. How do these unit costs and standing charges compare with the current tariff being charged by Bulb for your energy.

If you look at your most recent statemnet it will show estimated annual usage, how does line up with the annual usage you provided when you joined Bulb?

You should be able to do a lot of ground work yourself to come to some conclusion as to where an error has crept into any calculations.

I pose all these questions based on my easy experience when I joined Bulb some 18 months ago. I entered my annual usage (because I have always kept my own records of usage) when I joined Bulb, after having first used a comparison sites to find cheapest deals.

I kept a record of what I was asked to pay each month and retained copy of the tariff being offered at the time.

Because I keep my own spreadsheet I know exactly what I should set my monthly DD so that over a 12 month period I am not in credit or debit (except for the credit to cover one months advance requirement).