Tonik Energy launches electric car tariff that separates the charging cost

A small energy firm has launched an electric vehicle and home tariff that gives customers separate rates for charging their car and what they use in the home. 

Claiming to be the first of its kind, the Home and Smart EV bundle is from Tonik Energy and it says it is the UK’s lowest priced overnight fixed rate for new electric car users.

It says that drivers will be able to charge their car up to 8,000 miles for just £80 overnight over the course of the year, based on a Tesla Model 3, with 100 per cent renewable energy.

One industry insider says these types of deal are likely to become ‘more commonplace as electric cars grow in popularity.’

The Home and Smart EV bundle gives EV owners the UK’s lowest priced overnight fixed rate

Customers are given a separate electric vehicle charger rate to the rest of their home energy to allow households more transparency over how much it actually costs to charge their vehicle.

The Birmingham-based energy supplier said the reason it is now introducing the new bundle is due to the EV market growing in the UK.

Registrations for solely electric vehicles in the first six months of 2020 are up 86 per cent when compared to 2019 – although are still well off levels seen for petrol and to a lesser extent, diesel. 

In May 2020, pure-EVs were the only fuel type to increase in sales, as all other sectors declined by at least 50 per cent, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders – although this was a market severely hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Chris Russell, chief executive of Tonik Energy, said: ‘We designed Home and Smart EV to meet the needs of UK households who are increasingly making the switch to EV. 

‘We know that those switching to EV often consider where they could charge when they are out and about, but may think late on, or not enough about their home charging choices.’

How does it work?

Customers will firstly have to get a smart electric vehicle charging point installed at their home on or after 29 July 2020.

If you already have a home charger from the firm you will not be eligible for this offer. 

Tonik has a range of chargers to choose from brands such as EO, myenergi and Ohme with prices starting from £349 which will be installed by Tonik’s in-house EV charger team, The Phoenix Works. 

Consumers must then sign up to one of Tonik’s home energy tariffs if they are not yet a customer already. 

In May 2020, pure-EVs were also the only fuel type to increase in sales, according to data

In May 2020, pure-EVs were also the only fuel type to increase in sales, according to data 

By integrating with selected smart chargers, Tonik can then separate the home and the EV charging energy with special rates.

It claims to be currently offering the UK’s lowest priced fixed overnight rate for electric vehicle charging in the UK at 4.17p kWh, while its daytime rate is more than double at 10p.

The overnight rate is midnight to 7am and it can be scheduled to charge at this time.

Tonik takes the data to ensure that night-time charging can get customers up to 8,000 miles for only £80 over the course of the year which will be reflected as a credit on customer’s home energy bills. 

Customers do not require a special two rate or smart meter – it can work with any standard energy meter as it uses the smart data from the charger. 

Tonik says customers will also benefit with their normal home energy needs as they can save up to £300 compared to their current energy tariff, alongside the savings in charging their car at a lower rate overnight.

This could help eat into the outlay of getting an electric car charging point installed. 

However, the Home and Smart EV tariff is capped at 1,920kWh for customers electric vehicle consumption through the home charging solution over a 12 month period.

Any consumption above this cap will be charged at the customers Tonik home energy tariff rate, which is more expensive. 

Russell added: ‘EVs now have longer battery range, so most of the charging will be done at home – the home replaces the petrol forecourt, and it is important to get the right charger to manage charging and minimise costs.

‘With Tonik being both an energy supplier and energy tech installer we can provide this end-to-end solution for the EV owner with the home energy supply charging the car – making it easier and lower cost for consumers.

‘Tonik is giving EV drivers the opportunity to charge whilst they sleep, save money and make a positive difference to the planet.’

Tonik is 14th in the list of best energy suppliers, according to league tables by Which? earlier in the year, which features 35 companies. 

Will Owen, energy expert at Uswitch, said: ‘While most people associate electric vehicles with environmental benefits, the cost benefits are impressive too. 

‘Running costs for electric cars can be much lower than petrol and diesel vehicles. 

‘For fully electric vehicles you don’t have to fill up on fuel at all, and plug-in hybrids will use much less fuel than a standard car. 

‘One of the best ways to charge your EV cheaply at home is to take advantage of cheap off-peak energy rates. 

‘Many energy providers offer specific tariffs designed for households with electric vehicles.

‘While not all suppliers offer specialist EV tariffs at the moment, they’re likely to become more commonplace as electric cars grow in popularity.’

Electric vehicles are cheaper to own that petrol cars

The average zero-emission electric vehicle model is already cheaper to own than a petrol car, separate research claims.

In 2020, the average lifetime running costs – including purchase price – for an electric car is £52,133, while an equivalent petrol model is £53,625.

On average, an electric vehicle would cost the owner £3,752 a year over the course of its life, compared to £3,858 for a petrol car, resulting in an annual saving of £107, according to Direct Line.

In June this year, pure electric cars accounted for 6 per cent of all motor sales, as the market continues to shift in favour of alternative-fuel vehicles.

However, the figures have in recent months been skewed by the plummet in registrations of new motors during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

How vertical farming is helping stores reduce their environmental impact 

Top of the agenda for many big firms across Britain and the world in recent years is to find ways  to help reduce their environmental footprint and become more sustainable.

This has been driven by consumer demand for change and warnings over irreversible damage by large companies, who can make small improvements to help that add up.

One such way is vertical farming and it has seen one middle-class supermarket favourite get involved at some stores.

Marks and Spencer is the latest UK retailer to adapt vertical farming into its stores, with a selection of herbs now freshly grown and harvested in stores across London for shoppers to buy.

Vertical farming works by growing fruits and vegetables in vertically stacked layers inside

It has partnered with Infarm, a fast growing vertical farming firm based in Berlin, that also now operates in other supermarket chains across Europe.

Ocado has also invested £17million in vertical farming while John Lewis plans to grow salads in store in the future in a partnership with LettUs Grow. 

Aside from Marks and Spencer, Infarm has recently partnered with the online sustainable supermarket Farmdrop, which stocks a selection of herbs and salad leaves. 

It added it will be announcing some new retailers it has teamed up with in the next few months. 

Inform also works with a number of chefs in Europe, some of whom have installed farms into their restaurants so they can access the herbs at the freshest point, whenever they want.

In the UK, it supplies produce to Zala Grill in Camden Lock, but it doesn’t have a farm in the restaurant.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Infarm currently has eight restaurants with farms including the Michelin starred Sky Kitchen at Vienna House Andel’s. 

How does it work? 

Vertical farming works by growing fruits and vegetables in stacked layers that takes place in a controlled environment, often without the use of soil and instead the use of light energy.  

Emmanuel Evita, global communications director at Infarm, said: ‘Our approach allows us to be climate independent and grow under any conditions, despite changing climate, extreme weather, or disasters which normally interfere with food production and distribution.

‘Our vertical farms can be installed directly in any urban space, which is where the majority of the global population will live in the next few decades.’

Compared to conventional farming methods, Infarm argues that vertical farming uses less space, less water and less transportation. 

Its plants are also all locally-grown and free of chemical pesticides, making them better for both consumers and the planet.

When the food comes to harvest, it’s just one person in store, moving the produce about a meter from the growing with no machinery, storage or long-distance haulage. 

Infarm’s hubs are used to initiate the growth seeds. 

Once these seeds have developed to a certain maturity, they are delivered to the in-store farms at retailers, to complete their growth cycle and be offered to the consumer.

The hubs grow seeds across more than 65 combinations of herbs, microgreens and leafy greens and also deliver special varieties, like Peruvian Mint or Wasabi Rucola, directly to chefs for use that day.  

The fruit and vegetables growing in vertical farming takes place in a controlled environment

The fruit and vegetables growing in vertical farming takes place in a controlled environment

One reason vertical farming can help reduce the ecological waste associated with traditional industrial farming, according to Infarm, is that it uses 95 per cent less water and 75 per cent less fertiliser. 

It also uses no chemical pesticides, no genetically modified seeds and says it is able to save 14 litres of water per kilogram of produce.

Evita said: ‘Growing fresh produce creates a huge environmental burden on our planet. 

‘People want to eat the same foods at all times of the year, and this, combined with lengthy transportation routes, and overtaxed soil take a heavy toll not just on the environment but also on the taste and nutrition of what we eat.’

He believes that more retailers are now interested in vertical farming due to the current climate uncertainty.

However, vertical farming is not the cheapest resource out there and has been predicted by some agriculture experts to be three to five times more expensive than traditional farming.

But Infarm say that the product they provide is worth the extra money, especially with the benefits it brings to the environment. 

Retailers set the price for the produce Infarm provide in store with M&S currently charging £1.20 for herbs. 

It said the price does not tend to be significantly higher than their other produce offerings. 

Vertical farming helps reduce the ecological waste associated with industrial farming

Vertical farming helps reduce the ecological waste associated with industrial farming

Evita added: ‘We find that in recent years, investors from around the globe have been drawn to innovation that addresses the need for sustainable solutions to the challenges that affect our planet.

‘Certainly these are challenges that many countries and regions are dealing with now, and they are becoming increasingly urgent for all of us.’ 

Coronavirus has also posed many problems to the vertical farming industry, including the need to implement social distancing measures at hubs, although Infarm said it has been able to keep growing during this period. 

It added that the global pandemic has seen increased interest from both investors and consumers in the industry with Infarm clients experiencing a 222 per cent sales growth in the second quarter of this year.

This means the business has more than doubled its employees since June last year. 

The future of vertical farming definitely looks bright. Infarm started just under a decade ago and since then, it has grown to more than 700 farms in supermarkets and distribution centres all around the world, allowing it to harvest over 250,000 plants a month and growing.

It is now expanding from just Europe to the United States with Kroger and Canada with Sobeys as well as recently announcing plans to enter Japan and build the first vertical farming network in Asia through a new partnership with Konikuniya. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Whose crazy idea was my faulty 9ft-high smart meter?

Whose crazy idea was my faulty 9ft-high smart meter? I’d need a pogo stick to read it, says furious pensioner

When Joy Thomas was told she needed her energy meter replaced five years ago with a ‘smart’ one, her supplier said she’d be able to save money by seeing live data of her power usage.

But the 73-year-old, who lives in the Cornish hamlet of Goonlaze four miles west of St Austell, found her bills in fact shot up. She rang her supplier, EDF Energy, which confirmed that the smart meter was not working properly – and told Joy to supply the readings herself.

There was just one problem: the meter had been installed 9ft off the ground due to the area’s weak mobile signal, which the devices rely on to operate.

Our reader’s meter has been installed 9ft off the ground due to the area’s weak mobile signal

‘I am just 5ft and a chocolate tall,’ Joy explains. ‘They told me to stand on a chair to take a reading. I am not going to risk myself just for the convenience of an energy supplier.

‘If I was a few years younger I might have had a go by bouncing up and down on a pogo stick to get up that high but even on a chair I cannot reach to see.’ 

One of the key reasons for introducing smart meters was that energy suppliers would be able to read meters remotely by using radio wave signals. But the deadline for every household to have a smart meter installed was recently pushed back five years to 2025 due to problems getting the equipment to work properly or be accepted.

The original gadgets often go ‘dumb’ and only work like a traditional meter if you want to change your energy supplier. And despite introducing more reliable meters – called SMETS 2 – two years ago, there are still problems with weak signals. 

Those in areas with poor mobile phone reception often do not pick up a strong enough radio signal to enable energy suppliers to operate remote readings. Joy has now got a meter reader who comes to visit and climbs a ladder to check usage. 

She says: ‘Some twit in a London office came up with this daft idea without thinking it through – forgetting it does not actually save people energy and will not work in millions of homes like mine where there is no mobile phone reception.’

Smart meters are being installed in all 27million houses nationwide as part of an eye-wateringly expensive £11billion project. This cost is being footed by homes through higher energy bills.

Once fitted, energy suppliers should be able to save money by not having to come out and read your meter. Each household also gets a hand-sized gadget that lets them see in near-real time how much energy is being. In theory, seeing how much energy you are using makes it easier to cut back – for example, by turning off lights.

But more than two million homes are believed to suffer from being in a mobile phone reception ‘black spot’ – so may also struggle with the ‘smart’ meters. 

The meters are not compulsory and customers can refuse to have one installed. Yet energy firms have resorted to underhand tactics to ensure they are fitted – including offering cheaper tariffs to those that agree to have one of the new meters. 

Until mobile phone reception is improved nationwide, those homes in a black spot will continue to be blighted with a smart meter that is effectively ‘dumb’. Initially, the new meters were to have been installed in all homes by this year but only about half have actually been fitted.

EDF Energy says: ‘Occasionally we may not be able to install or connect a smart meter during an appointment due to technical reasons such as signal strength. When a smart meter cannot be connected it will still work the same as a non-smart meter, recording energy used.’ She adds: ‘While we understand this is frustrating for customers, as soon as we are able to connect the meter we will do so.’

The Government-backed campaign body Smart Energy GB is promoting the smart meter rollout. It has a £224million budget to spend on advertising to convince everyone to have a smart meter installed. 

Smart Energy GB says: ‘All second generation smart meters use a dedicated, secure network that will cover 99.25 per cent of Great Britain by the end of the rollout. If you live in an area with a poor mobile phone signal it will not be a barrier to upgrading to smart meters.’ 

Can I get ‘warzone’ travel insurance that will cover me in Spain?

Panicked holidaymakers heading to Spain are turning to a specialist warzone travel insurer, typically used by those on dangerous assignments to countries renowned for kidnappings and murders, to try and obtain cover for their trip.

Battleface says it has had a ‘significant increase in enquiries and bookings’ for policies covering Spain and all destinations in recent days, after the Government introduced new quarantine measures for those returning from the holiday hotspot and Foreign Commonwealth Office advice changed.

The Kent-based firm, which usually covers people who need stronger insurance for heading to terrorist hotspots such as Africa and the Middle East, is now seeing an influx of families looking to cover trips to the Costa Del Sol and the like.

However, despite providing cover for those who catch coronavirus abroad, it does not include cover in relation to Covid-19 expenses for trip cancellations, curtailment of a holiday or lockdowns. It also does not cover those aged over 59.

Protection: Warzone insurance covers customers who travel to dangerous places – not typically Spain (pictured: Mallorca) 

So-called ‘warzone’ insurance works very similarly to normal policies and will cover the policyholder for all of the same things including medical claims, baggage and cancellation, for example.

The main difference is, however, they will also offer cover for those who catch coronavirus when heading abroad.  

Some are now turning to these specialist insurers to try and cover themselves when travelling to countries the FCO has recommended against heading to, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the main countries affected at the moment is Spain with many Britons already having their flights booked to travel to the country and its nearby islands.

For those who still insist on continuing with their holidays, they will find it difficult to be insured by standard travel insurers. 

While it is possible to take out warzone insurance to cover holidaymakers heading to Spain, it can often be costlier than normal insurance, due to the increased risk. 

The insurers that offer this type of cover are also explicit in saying they are not encouraging customers to head to Spain when the FCO advises against it.

But for those intent on travelling, despite the high risk, they can potentially cover themselves against the coronavirus by taking out the specialist insurance.

Battleface is one of a number of specialist insurers currently offering cover for those who catch coronavirus abroad. 

It told This is Money that it has seen a marked increase in interest in the recent weeks. 

Sasha Gainullin, chief executive of Battleface, said: ‘In recent days we have seen a significant increase in enquiries and bookings for policies to cover Spain and all destinations.

‘Battleface travel insurance policies cover exactly the same as most travel insurance policies including medical and emergency expenses, hospital benefit, personal accident, baggage, personal money and passport and personal liability.’

Its travel insurance policies have always provided coverage to destinations that are under FCO’s ‘all but essential travel to’ advisory or any other governmental warning. 

People that head to these destinations are typically charity and humanitarian workers, healthcare professionals and journalists.  

Warzone insurance works similarly to normal policies - but it includes cover against catching the virus

Warzone insurance works similarly to normal policies – but it includes cover against catching the virus

Battleface also said it wasn’t as expensive as some might think to take out cover.

It claimed that for a seven day holiday in Spain for two people aged 30 with no pre-existing medical conditions, the cost would be £38.06 including insurance premium tax. 

Although Battleface are quoting a relatively cheap price for cover, it does still doesn’t cover customers for cancellations. 

The cost will also vary from person to person, depending on their individual circumstances. 

Despite providing cover for medical expenses those who catch coronavirus abroad, there are also numerous exceptions, including the fact it won’t cover anyone over 60. 

Nor will it cover you for cancellations, one of the main risks at the moment. 

The new Covid-19 cover is available on all policies purchased from 17 July 2020.

Gainullin added: ‘In regards to cancellation, curtailment or lockdown/quarantine expense coverage due to Covid-19, our policies do not provide cover for this and we do not plan to add this benefit in the near future.’ 

Another firm, Warzonecover, added it has seen a large spike in enquiries in the past week from individuals travelling to Europe on holiday looking for travel insurance.

It says that clients that initiated either individual or group personal accident policies prior to the pandemic are also covered for Covid-19 until expiry of their policies.  

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Rogue trader warning on energy saving home improvements


When Michael and Brenda Pickup received a knock on their door and an offer of free insulation under the Government’s Green Deal, they thought it was a safe way to save money. 

But, six years on, the pensioners face a bill of nearly £20,000 to correct the damage caused by rogue traders cashing in on the scheme. 

The Government will hand out £2billion in grant cash for energy efficient home improvements from September. 

Huge bill: Michael and Brenda Pickup face paying nearly £20,000 to correct the damage caused by rogue traders

Campaigners are now demanding reassurances after previous similar initiatives left behind a legacy of scams and shoddy work. 

More than half of households across the country plan to apply for a green homes grant, according to MoneySuperMarket. 

But last week Darren Jones, chairman of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, asked the Government how it would ensure only ‘quality suppliers’ carried out the work. The Labour MP also pointed out that previous energy efficiency schemes had seen homes suffer ‘inadequate work from suppliers who failed to meet required standards’. 

One previous multi-million-pound initiative, the Green Deal, offered loans to households for energy efficient home improvements. It was abandoned due to low uptake just two years after it launched in 2013. Yet many households are still out of pocket after signing up. 

Michael, 74, and Brenda, 73, agreed to have cavity wall insulation installed at their 1930s stone property in Rossendale, Lancashire, after a salesman knocked on their door claiming to be from a firm called Heatwave Energy Solutions. 

The couple were told they would not have to pay anything and that the company could claim the cost back from the government. By the end of the year, their wallpaper had started peeling off as rainwater leaked through the insulation, causing damp. 

It turned out their home was not suitable and the wall insulation should never have been installed. 

But when Michael called Heatwave Energy Solutions, he was told there was no record of work being carried out at their home. Heatwave Energy Solutions, a company based in Wigan, has since gone into liquidation and Money Mail was unable to contact it. 

The couple, who have mobility problems, want to downsize but have been warned they will struggle to sell their £200,000 home unless they spend £19,660 to have the insulation removed. 

Father-of-three Michael says: ‘The whole thing has just made us really angry, as it has ruined the past six-or-so years for us. We trusted them because they said it was a government scheme.’ 

Families also complained that, under the Green Deal, they had been mis-sold solar panels and insulation tied to long-term high interest loans that were far more costly than any savings they enjoyed on their energy bills. 

Close to 200 customers of one firm, Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems (Helms), are still waiting for compensation after the company dissolved in 2018. Chartered surveyor Tim Davies, who acts as an expert witness in trading standards cases, says: ‘This country has a big problem with rogue traders and the green grants scheme has all the hallmarks of an initiative which will replicate the same kind of problems as the Green Deal did. 

‘The Government will have to be scrupulous when it comes to the vetting process, but inevitably some rogue traders will slip through the net.’ 

National Trading Standards is urging people to make sure they understand the full details of the grants and what they cover, before they agree to have work done. Director Wendy Martin says: ‘Criminals exploit new trends and investments to deceive and defraud consumers and we recognise concerns that some may seek to abuse the Government’s green homes grants.’ 

Homeowners in Suffolk have already started receiving phone calls from companies claiming they are eligible for one of the grants, even though the scheme has not been launched yet, according to Trading Standards.

Last week Matthew Vickers, chief executive of the Energy Ombudsman, called for customers who use the green grants to have the right to ‘free, independent redress if things go wrong’. The green home grants will enable eligible households to claim government cash to cover at least two-thirds of the bill for energy-efficient home improvements, but no more than £5,000. Those on the lowest income will be able to claim for the full cost of work done, up to £10,000. 

A Government spokesman says only ‘accredited installers working to specified standards and with robust consumer protection practices’ will be able to carry out work for the scheme.

THE COVID-19 SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR 

A top ten list of Covid-19 scams has been published by banks after more than £400 million was lost to fraudsters in lockdown. Banking trade body UK Finance is warning the nation to stop and think before parting with money and question whether an email or call could be fake. 

The organisation says scammers are posing as employees from the NHS Test and Trace service, while others are targeting those needing financial help in the crisis. 

Victims have been sent emails offering grants of up to £7,500 that appear to have come from the Government. But if the target clicks on the link, they are taken to a site that steals their bank details. Other criminals are getting hold of personal details by encouraging victims to fill in online forms to apply for a council tax reduction or cash from ‘Covid-19 relief funds’. 

Online shoppers have also been targeted with fake adverts for face masks which never arrive. Others have been sent fake emails and texts which claim to be from TV Licensing. And some are posing as subscription services — such as Netflix — and asking victims for their credit card details.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Parents denied refunds on childcare vouchers


Parents who pay into childcare voucher schemes being denied refunds by their employers, despite not being able to use vouchers during lockdown

Parents who pay into childcare voucher schemes are being denied refunds by their employers, despite not being able to use the vouchers during lockdown. 

Some say they have built up balances of more than £1,000. 

The tax-efficient scheme closed to new applicants in October 2018 but those who have already signed up can continue to buy the vouchers. These can be spent at registered childminders, nurseries and after-school clubs.

Child’s play: The tax-efficient scheme closed to new applicants in October 2018 but those who have already signed up can continue to buy the vouchers

If two parents contribute the maximum, vouchers could cut the cost of childcare by £1,866 a year, according to the scheme. 

But with childcare providers closed over lockdown, many parents have built up a glut of vouchers they can’t use — perhaps because their children are starting school in September. Yet when parents have asked employers for their money back, they have been told no. 

One provider Sodexo, says: ‘Refunds are not possible under salary sacrifice contracts. Another, Fideliti Childcare Vouchers, says: ‘Childcare vouchers are non-refundable and can only be used to pay for childcare, so you should only order vouchers you are able to use.’ Early Years Vouchers says no refunds are made to employees under ‘normal circumstances.’ 

HMRC says refunds are at the employer’s discretion, adding that they would need to deduct the appropriate tax and National Insurance.

Rogue trader warning on energy saving home improvements


When Michael and Brenda Pickup received a knock on their door and an offer of free insulation under the Government’s Green Deal, they thought it was a safe way to save money. 

But, six years on, the pensioners face a bill of nearly £20,000 to correct the damage caused by rogue traders cashing in on the scheme. 

The Government will hand out £2billion in grant cash for energy efficient home improvements from September. 

Huge bill: Michael and Brenda Pickup face paying nearly £20,000 to correct the damage caused by rogue traders

Campaigners are now demanding reassurances after previous similar initiatives left behind a legacy of scams and shoddy work. 

More than half of households across the country plan to apply for a green homes grant, according to MoneySuperMarket. 

But last week Darren Jones, chairman of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, asked the Government how it would ensure only ‘quality suppliers’ carried out the work. The Labour MP also pointed out that previous energy efficiency schemes had seen homes suffer ‘inadequate work from suppliers who failed to meet required standards’. 

One previous multi-million-pound initiative, the Green Deal, offered loans to households for energy efficient home improvements. It was abandoned due to low uptake just two years after it launched in 2013. Yet many households are still out of pocket after signing up. 

Michael, 74, and Brenda, 73, agreed to have cavity wall insulation installed at their 1930s stone property in Rossendale, Lancashire, after a salesman knocked on their door claiming to be from a firm called Heatwave Energy Solutions. 

The couple were told they would not have to pay anything and that the company could claim the cost back from the government. By the end of the year, their wallpaper had started peeling off as rainwater leaked through the insulation, causing damp. 

It turned out their home was not suitable and the wall insulation should never have been installed. 

But when Michael called Heatwave Energy Solutions, he was told there was no record of work being carried out at their home. Heatwave Energy Solutions, a company based in Wigan, has since gone into liquidation and Money Mail was unable to contact it. 

The couple, who have mobility problems, want to downsize but have been warned they will struggle to sell their £200,000 home unless they spend £19,660 to have the insulation removed. 

Father-of-three Michael says: ‘The whole thing has just made us really angry, as it has ruined the past six-or-so years for us. We trusted them because they said it was a government scheme.’ 

Families also complained that, under the Green Deal, they had been mis-sold solar panels and insulation tied to long-term high interest loans that were far more costly than any savings they enjoyed on their energy bills. 

Close to 200 customers of one firm, Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems (Helms), are still waiting for compensation after the company dissolved in 2018. Chartered surveyor Tim Davies, who acts as an expert witness in trading standards cases, says: ‘This country has a big problem with rogue traders and the green grants scheme has all the hallmarks of an initiative which will replicate the same kind of problems as the Green Deal did. 

‘The Government will have to be scrupulous when it comes to the vetting process, but inevitably some rogue traders will slip through the net.’ 

National Trading Standards is urging people to make sure they understand the full details of the grants and what they cover, before they agree to have work done. Director Wendy Martin says: ‘Criminals exploit new trends and investments to deceive and defraud consumers and we recognise concerns that some may seek to abuse the Government’s green homes grants.’ 

Homeowners in Suffolk have already started receiving phone calls from companies claiming they are eligible for one of the grants, even though the scheme has not been launched yet, according to Trading Standards.

Last week Matthew Vickers, chief executive of the Energy Ombudsman, called for customers who use the green grants to have the right to ‘free, independent redress if things go wrong’. The green home grants will enable eligible households to claim government cash to cover at least two-thirds of the bill for energy-efficient home improvements, but no more than £5,000. Those on the lowest income will be able to claim for the full cost of work done, up to £10,000. 

A Government spokesman says only ‘accredited installers working to specified standards and with robust consumer protection practices’ will be able to carry out work for the scheme.

THE COVID-19 SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR 

A top ten list of Covid-19 scams has been published by banks after more than £400 million was lost to fraudsters in lockdown. Banking trade body UK Finance is warning the nation to stop and think before parting with money and question whether an email or call could be fake. 

The organisation says scammers are posing as employees from the NHS Test and Trace service, while others are targeting those needing financial help in the crisis. 

Victims have been sent emails offering grants of up to £7,500 that appear to have come from the Government. But if the target clicks on the link, they are taken to a site that steals their bank details. Other criminals are getting hold of personal details by encouraging victims to fill in online forms to apply for a council tax reduction or cash from ‘Covid-19 relief funds’. 

Online shoppers have also been targeted with fake adverts for face masks which never arrive. Others have been sent fake emails and texts which claim to be from TV Licensing. And some are posing as subscription services — such as Netflix — and asking victims for their credit card details.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Energy bills set to soar by £219m as 125 fixed deals come to an end


Energy bills are set to soar by £219m this summer as 125 fixed deals come to an end: We reveal the best tariffs on the market

  • Millions of households will see their energy bills rocket by a collective £219m
  • Some 125 fixed deals are set to finish at the end of July and August 
  • We reveal the best tariffs currently on the market 

Millions of households across the UK will see their energy bills rise by an avwerage of nearly £150 this summer as a number of fixed deals come to an end, new research has revealed.

Some 125 fixed deals are set to finish at the end of July and August, meaning millions of bills will increase, according to data from comparison site Uswitch. Almost 1.5million homes will be affected by the price hikes – unless they change to a new fixed tariff, which are much less pricey than standard default tariffs.

The collective increase for all household is £219million, or £149 each, if they just roll onto a costly standard variable tariff.

125 fixed deals are to finish at the end of July and August, meaning millions of bills will increase

Consumers are encouraged to check their bills before letting it roll on automatically and are advised to use price comparison sites to see if they could find themselves a better deal.

Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch, said: ‘There are 125 fixed deals coming to an end in July and August, and it’s important to bag yourself a new one before you get dumped on your supplier’s standard variable tariff.

‘With some families facing financial difficulties and uncertainty at the moment, no one should be paying more than they need to for their energy.

‘Britons could face an average £149 price hike if they do not take action and switch to a cheap deal now to avoid rolling onto a poor value Standard Variable Tariff.’ 

Separate research from Compare the Market earlier this month revealed that more people were switching away from the Big Six rather than to, for the first time this year. 

Many smaller, challenger suppliers are offering competitive deals that is encouraging customers to switch tariff. 

Of the five highest savings tariffs available on Compare the Market, all were from challenger suppliers, with an average saving amongst these deals standing at almost £375. 

Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said: ‘With many energy tariffs coming to an end in July, hundreds of thousands of households run the risk of being rolled onto a standard variable tariff – which will likely be significantly more expensive. 

‘The best way to mitigate any increase in the cost is by switching provider or shopping around for a better deal. There are a range of competitive tariffs available at the moment – including tariffs that use renewable energy – making now a great time to review your current deal.’ 

Using comparison websites to find the best energy deal is recommended to get a good deal

Using comparison websites to find the best energy deal is recommended to get a good deal

Best fixed deals on the market 

Currently the best fixed deal on the market is with challenger supplier, Avro Energy, on their Simple and SuperGlow tariff. 

The average yearly price is just £810.34, fixed for 12 months. However, those looking to be more environmentally friendly may want to give it a miss as it is not green. 

The next cheapest tariff is with smaller supplier, Outfox the Market, on their Fix’D 20 13.0 deal which is fixed for 12 months at £820.43 a year. 

It is also a green deal which could sway those looking for a cleaner tariff. 

Two of the Big Six suppliers are also featured in the list with British Gas and Eon both making the cut. 

Eon’s Fix Online Exclusive v43 tariff comes in at £851.44 a year but there is an exit fee of £60 a year if customers want to leave early.

British Gas’ Energy and Home Services Jul 2021v3 deal is also on the list, just slightly more expensive at £855.37 a year, again with a £60 exit fee. 

BEST FIXED ENERGY DEALS ON THE MARKET 
Supplier Plan name Tariff type End date Green? Exit fee  Average price 
Avro Energy Simple and SuperGlow fixed 12m No 0 £810.34
Outfox the Market Fix’D 20 13.0 fixed 12m Yes 0 £820.43
Simplicity Energy 2020Cabbage fixed 12m No £70 £822.68
Yorkshire Energy Green Ribblehead – Fixed Until 31st August 2021 fixed 31/08/2021 Yes £60 £829.84
Tonik Energy Green SuperPower (1 Year) v8 + Free Boiler Service fixed 12m Yes £60 £833.19
Pure Planet 100% Green 12m Fixed Jul20 v1 fixed 12m Yes £60 £842.09
EBICo 12m Summer Saver v2 fixed 12m Yes £60 £846.24
E.ON Fix Online Exclusive v43 fixed 12m Yes £60 £851.44
British Gas Energy and Home Services Jul 2021v3 fixed 31/07/2021 Yes £60 £855.37
Together Energy Green Together Fixed July21 v4 fixed 12m Yes £60 £855.44
Source: Uswitch (prices correct as of 27 July 2020)           



Bodgers beware: That DIY disaster could cost you £2,000


Bodgers beware: That DIY disaster could cost you £2,000 – and lower the value of your home

  • The annual cost of DIY disasters is £7billion, according to research by Aviva
  • Nearly a third of households ended up paying for a professional after a DIY fail
  • One in ten has run up a bill of more than £2,000 fixing bodged jobs
  • Some DIY jobs may lower the value of your home by tens of thousands of pounds 

If you have tried your hand at DIY while stuck at home during lockdown, you are certainly not alone. But insurer Aviva is urging people to ‘proceed with caution’ after revealing that the annual cost of DIY disasters is £7billion.

Its research shows that almost a third of households have ended up paying for a professional when DIY tasks have failed – while one in ten has run up a bill of more than £2,000 fixing bodged jobs.

Sarah Applegate, head of global strategy and insights at Aviva, says: ‘Many people have been tempted to turn their attention to tackling those niggly odd jobs around the house.

Beware of accidentally drilling holes through pipes or electrical cables, experts warn

‘But we would advise people to work within their limits and not attempt tasks which could be better left to professionals – particularly if they involve electricity, gas or plumbing.’

DIY mishaps can be as simple as a water leak when changing a radiator or spilling paint on carpet.

But other, more catastrophic DIY disasters include being electrocuted after cutting through electrical wires, falling through a ceiling or roof or causing a fire when carrying out electrical work. 

Adrienne Minster, chief executive of trade recommendation service Rated People, says: ‘A lot of people would like to think they are handy with a hammer, but with plaster falling at your feet or worse, it’s easy to find yourself in a sticky situation.’

Alastair Bell, claims expert at insurer More Than, says many claims he sees relate to ‘accidentally drilling holes through pipes or electrical cables in the wall, as well as lost or damaged wedding rings’.

He says: ‘To avoid accidents, it’s important not to rush into a job and to plan for every eventuality.

‘Simple steps include using a device to check for cables or pipes behind walls before drilling and putting jewellery somewhere safe while performing tasks.’

DIY bodges can also affect a property’s value. While many home-owners believe sprucing up their property will increase its value, home furnishings retailer ScS warns that some DIY jobs lower the value by tens of thousands of pounds. 

Converting or removing a bedroom can make a property less attractive to buyers and potentially knock 20 per cent off the value. With the average UK house worth £232,000, this can equate to a loss of £46,000.

Garage conversions can also shave around £16,000 (seven per cent) off an average property’s value, while building an extension without the necessary planning permission can reduce a home’s value by 15 per cent, or around £35,000.

Holly Herbert, head of content at website webuyanyhouse, says: ‘Any extensions built without planning permission might have to be torn down, putting you at a huge loss, and decreasing your house value.’

Before taking on any DIY task, homeowners are encouraged to check their home insurance policy includes accidental damage cover. If not, adding this could be money well spent.

Be warned though – insurers may reject a claim if plumbing or electrical work has been carried out by someone unqualified.

Homeowners undertaking more extensive home renovations should inform their insurance provider in advance. This is in case cover needs to be increased. Crucially, too, tenants should speak to their landlord before carrying out any type of DIY.

Useful tips before you open your toolbox 

● Only tackle the jobs you are qualified for – if it requires expert knowledge, contact a professional.

● When looking for a tradesperson, use an online directory service such as Checkatrade or Rated People. Always get at least three quotes and check any reviews given.

● Do your research before you begin any task and check online videos for tips.

● Use a pipe and wire detector before using a drill or hammer.

● Tidy up as you go to avoid tripping over tools and toolboxes as you work.

● Clear away any expensive high-tech items such as laptops, tablets and phones to prevent damaging them.

● Try to keep pets and children out of any work-zone.

● Always read instructions carefully before using tools you have borrowed or recently purchased.

● If you are carrying out a job that involves water, electricity or gas, ensure you turn these utilities off before you begin the work.

● Use dust sheets to cover carpets, soft furnishings and appliances before painting.

● Start work early in the day so you have time to carry out repairs if something goes wrong.

● If you’re not sure whether your DIY project will be covered under your home insurance, check with the firm first.

Burglaries expected to rise this summer so protect your home


Households are being advised to be cautious this summer with burglars more likely to strike as more people head back to work.

While many have been spending more time at home in lockdown, burglaries have been significantly reduced – but this could all change as restrictions ease, experts warn.

Normally, the biggest number of burglaries are in the run up to Christmas when the nights are darker, however, this year has thrown up a lot of change, including when thieves might attack, according to More Than insurance.

In other words, there are plenty of professional thieves out there ready to make up for lost time in the coming months.  

Experts are warning there could be an increase in burglaries this summer as lockdown eases

There are simple steps homes can take to ensure they are as protected as possible against intruders and ensure they keep their belongings safe.

Andrew Moore, home claims director at More Than, said: ‘As more people now go out to meet friends and go to work, burglaries may start up again.

‘People should take practical common sense measures, insuring that their house and any outbuildings are secured and locked.’

This is Money, with the help of More Than insurance, has detailed what you can do to try and protect your household. 

Most of it is common sense, but it’s handy to have a reminder given the amount of time many have spent in lockdown and may have perhaps let good home security habits slip. 

1. Insurance: Households should have adequate home and contents insurance as this should cover your belongings should your home be broken into and items are stolen.

Each policy will differ depending on how much you need to cover in the home. 

Depending on the individual insurance policy, it will also suggest what locks you need to use which will help keep your home more secure. 

If you have specialist items – such as pricey jewellery, heirlooms or bicycles, for example – you may need to bolt these on separately, with up-to-date valuations to ensure full protection. 

Policies can start from as little as £6 a month for one bedroom flats. 

The average UK household owns £35,000 of items with the average combined home and contents insurance policy costing £161.75 a year, according to the AA British Insurance Premium Index. 

That is equivalent to £13.48 a month – a relatively small expense. 

Those who have home and contents insurance should make sure they don’t just let their policy auto-renew as it is likely it could go up in cost.

By challenging your insurer and comparing prices with other providers, you are likely to get a better deal. 

If you change policy to another provider, ensure that it offers the same protection as before and is updated to any changes you may have made in the last year.  

Households should be aware as thieves could target garden furniture that is left out overnight

Households should be aware as thieves could target garden furniture that is left out overnight

2. Locks: Households should always make sure they have locks that are sufficient for their needs – this includes on front doors, back doors, windows, conservatory doors and garages. 

It also includes on outbuildings, such as sheds.  

There are many types of locking systems and your insurer may recommend ones it thinks are appropriate for your living situation.

One of the main security problems, according to Master Locksmith Association experts, is not having the correct lock fitted to a front door.

Many end up with cheap replica locks of well known brands which, unfortunately, do not stand up to the test and are unable to prevent intruders from entering.

For people to have peace of mind, it is advised that they splash out on recommended locks and bolts, for example, Yale and Chubb locks are known for being sturdy and secure. 

The MLA also advised that locks should be suitably tested and approved to confirm they comply with PAS 24, Secure by Design and ADQ or may carry the BSI Kitemark and they should be locked properly by following the manufacturers instructions. 

For those living in flats, they should still ensure they keep the main access door locked at all times as people can still can get in through this if it is not secured properly. 

Tenants are also advised to be just as vigilant for their internal and external doors.

Renters should ensure they ask their landlord for any security systems they think they might need, for example, an alarm or better locks on your door. 

All households should remember to use window locks, lock garages and lock sheds. Even if you’re not going far, make sure to lock up.

3. Keep things out of sight: Don’t put valuables or keys where people can see through a window and don’t leave things where people can reach them.

While this might seem obvious, burglars have been known to reach through letterboxes and hook out keys that have been left on the side table. 

It is important to keep your keys and other valuables out of sight and out of reach. Buying a key box could help this – one that can help block signals for car keys is also recommended, given the uptick in this type of theft.   

Smart doorbells, made popular by Ring, are one of the newer security systems homes have

Smart doorbells, made popular by Ring, are one of the newer security systems homes have

4. Technology: Having good security is important to keeping a home safe. 

This includes burglar alarms and security cameras outside the household. 

Make sure all security systems are still active as while the look of them could be a deterrent, this is not guaranteed. 

As we have been in lockdown since March, some systems may have stopped working and as such the security system in place may not be sufficient. 

Smart security is a growing sector with households turning to enhanced technology to keep their home safe. 

Such popular items include smart doorbells, which were popularised by Ring, which come with a camera attached letting users see who is at their door before they answer it.

Similarly, smart doorlocks are also growing in popularity, as it allows owners to lock and unlock their front door remotely. 

Other devices include smart thermostats, smart lightbulbs and smart alarms. Those with these devices should contact their insurer, is it may help reduce premiums. 

5. Keep gardens safe: Some thieves will target homes for their garden furniture or outhouses such as sheds. 

There are often blind spots in the garden which allow opportunist thieves to enter and exit your property unseen and hide out while they plan their next move.

Cut back any overgrown bushes which could act as a hiding place and trim overhanging trees which leave large shaded areas you can’t see from inside. 

To give your property an extra layer of security, consider adding thorny plants or bushes around the edges of your garden. 

Alternatively, adding spikes to the top of fences or gates will stop intruders attempting to climb them. 

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