Broadband, gas, phone - it all adds up. Here's how you can cut the cost of your utilities
We all suspect we're regularly over-charged on bills - they surely can't be THAT high every month?
Well new research has shown that many are indeed being billed for more than they owe on energy, television and broadband.
Switching site switcher.ie found that 30pc of households have been billed incorrectly for ordinary utilities, which backs up a Commission on Energy Regulation (CER) report revealing 64pc of its complaints about electricity, and a whopping 72pc about gas, relate to billing.
This week, I'm looking at the top five ways you may be over-charged with tips on how to save cash. If you're having problems getting a billing issue sorted, nothing concentrates customer services minds more than the threat to move.
There are plenty of competitors here, but bills remain a bewildering list of acronyms and charges. Understanding how electricity works is hard enough, but not a patch on trying to interpret your bill. While it's important to have everything laid out, who knows what a MPRN is?
Or why the PSO levy is there? The table (right) shows the breakdown of this most complicated of all bills.
Below are some points to follow:
l always check whether your bill is actual or estimated (there will be an 'E' beside 'monthly usage' if it's the latter. If so, get an actual reading and call them with it.
l consider bundling your gas and electricity to one provider. You'll get extra discounts, but only if it is cheaper to do so.
l when signing up, ask how long the contract is for. You may be bogged down for two years, so it's an important decision.
l use sites like switcher.ie or bonkers.ie to help - they are accredited to the CER and not run by utility providers.
Fifty eight per cent of our gas comes from Corrib and Kinsale, but it means we import the rest from the UK, which affects price.
The likes of Bord Gais and Energia offer both utilities, but there are others, like Flogas, who only do gas and can often offer better value, so it is worth checking them out.
Comparison websites are not allowed show 'cash back' deals offered by providers built-in to their price comparisons, so you may get a better deal when switching. Always ask.
If you use gas for heating, turning the thermostat down by one degree will save you up to €10 on your bill.
3. House insurance
When assessing your building's cover, most people insure for their house's value, but in fact, you only need insure for the 're-building' cost. You can find this out by county/house type on scsi.ie which has a rebuild calculator.
Never use a percentage of the building cover for contents insurance. Work out actual replacement costs instead.
In the event of a claim, you will only ever get the actual value of items, irrespective of your sum insured, so it's wasted money.
Bundling broadband with your TV/Phone is a good way of saving money, but beware of contract terms. Many are now up to two years, which locks you in.
Paying extra for top-speed lines, when you only have low domestic use, is a waste of money.
5. Mobile phones
Bill pay is often cheaper than pre-pay and carries higher data allowances, and you get a nice phone.
However, contracts can be 24 months. SIM only, if you're happy with your handset, is by far the cheapest. Do you really need the latest Apple?
And use an independent broker like Carphone Warehouse for comparisons, rather than individual providers.