First Utility Review
First Utility has over a million customers, and have thrown down a challenge to the Big Six energy providers, but the big question is: are First Utility any good?
The Warwick-based supplier claims the “problem in the energy market today” is that too many of us are overpaying for energy and that the industry is not doing enough to engage consumers.
Britain is overspending on energy bills by £3.4 billion a year, according to its research.
It insists it is the answer to that problem, using innovative technology to offer consumers very competitive prices.
While we explore the benefits and downsides in our First Utility review, the only way you can truly find out if First Utility can save you cash is by comparing energy deals online.
First Utility price watch
Since its launch, First Utility has been very competitive on price; it's still pretty reasonable.
The company's current cheapest deal - Home Services Fixed May 2018 - will cost the typical household £946 a year.
This is, however, roughly £100 pricier than the market's cheapest deals and First Utility's three other tariffs - First Fixed April 2019, First Fixed April 2020 and First Variable - all come in at over £1,000.
In February 2017, in the face of rising wholesale energy costs, First Utility announced a 9.7% price hike (£102 a year on average) for its 100,000 standard dual-fuel customers.
What's First Utility’s customer service like?
First Utility has, in fairness, made great improvements to its customer service.
In its early years of rapid growth, service fell by the wayside. In 2014, a survey by consumer group Which? reviewed First Utility with 2 out of 5 stars for service and found hold times on phone lines of up to eighteen minutes.
But the good news is: they’re definitely improving. It runner-up up to OVO in USwitch's 2017 'Customer Service Awards', reviewed at 87% in the survey of 5000 energy consumers.
And, in a more recent Which? survey from October 2016, First Utility ranked 11 out of 23 suppliers, scoring 64% overall, including four stars for billing accuracy and clarify and three stars for both customer service and value for money.
Between October and December 2016, First Utility received 1479 complaints per 100,000 customers. When compared to its medium-sized rivals, this was a middling performance.
The Co-op Energy (563), OVO (an incredible 78) and Utility Warehouse (1385) all received fewer complaints per 100,00 accounts. Utilita (3839) and Extra Energy (2403), however, fared worse.
In the same period, First Utility resolved a respectable 56% within one working day. This was better than OVO (36%), Co-op (24%) and Extra Energy (50%).
The most common cause of complaints and poor reviews are: billing; meter readings; payments; direct debits and moving home.
Post on A Spokesman Said and make a complaint about First Utility. You can contact the company directly on 01926 320 700.
First Utility green credentials
When it comes to Eco-friendly energy, First Utility is a mixed bag. It sources a lot from renewables but also from coal. If renewable energy isn't a concern to you then read our Iresa Energy review or our Flow Energy Review.
Here's where it gets its fuel from (the UK average is in brackets for comparison):
* Coal: 18.9% (17.0%)
* Natural Gas: 32.7% (32.3%)
* Nuclear: 12.9% (23.7%)
* Renewables: 28.3% (24.3%)
* Other fuels: 7.2% (2.5%)
How do I pay First Utility?
Customers have a range of payment options but the main one is direct debit (where the company takes money from your account each month).
Direct debit comes in two forms: fixed and variable.
First Utility automatically sets you up on a fixed plan to help you budget for each month’s bill.
The term 'fixed direct debit' can be a bit misleading.
It does not mean you have a definite price every month – like a phone bill. Instead, First Utility will work out a monthly fee based on your tariff and consumption levels.
This means you may be find yourself using more or less than their estimation, and be either in credit or debt.
Any surplus credit you amass can be claimed back at any time. For advice on how best to do this, visit our guide.
‘Variable direct debit’ means you pay for exactly what you use. You won’t be in credit or debt, but remember to expect and prepare for higher bills in winter.
You are protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee, which means you must be notified ten days in advance of any changes to your direct debit. If First Utility don’t alert you, you can claim a full refund.
Alongside direct debit you can also pay by cash, BACS transfer or, if you were cryogenically frozen in the nineteenth century and have just woken up, cheque.
But these options are more expensive – First Utility claims paying by direct debit can save you £24 a year.
The only way to really find out if First Utility can cut your bills is by comparing energy deals online.
First Utility bills
Understanding energy bills can be like deciphering hieroglyphics, and First Utility’s are no different.
To help you understand your bill, First Utility provides an online interactive tool that breaks it down for you.
Hover over any section of the bill you don’t understand and it will explain it for you.
Your bill should include:
* Last month's balance
* How much you owe this month
* Any payments
* Information about your Direct Debit payments
* An itemisation of the rates you're paying
Remember, personal projection is an estimate First Utility have made of how much energy you will use over a twelve month period.
This may well be different to both direct debit and the amount you are billed but it’s nothing to be worried about.
What do we think?
First Utility’s smart meters, app and online tools makes managing your energy consumption easier, but could confuse customers uncomfortable with tech.
Most importantly, First Utility is very competitive on price and is starting to address the problems surrounding it’s customer service.
* Very competitive tariffs
* Effective app and online account make managing your energy easier
* Better than average call waiting times
* Focus on technology could be confusing
* Customer service could still be improved
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