Here's a roundup of the week's top stories:
Scottish Power Becomes Latest Big Six Suppliers to Hike Prices This Month
Scottish Power has announced that it will be raising bill prices for customers on its standard variable tariff to £1,254 a year (based on average usage). This rise is in line with the newly increased level of the energy price cap, in effect from 1 April. The move will add £117 to the annual energy costs of the 900,000 customers who have an SVT with the Big Six supplier.
Suppliers have rushed to raise their prices after regulator Ofgem raised of the ceiling on the industry-wide price cap earlier this month. Energy giants British Gas and SSE also announced price hikes this week, on the tail of increases from Npower, EDF, and E.ON the week before. Consumers are being urged to shop around for better deals. Switching to one of the cheapest fixed rate energy deals on the market from a SVT with a Big Six supplier can shave upwards of £300 from their annual energy costs.
Customers on pre-payment tariffs with Scottish Power will also face a 9%, or £106, price increase.
The increase comes as Scottish Power registered a tripling of its profits, from £94.7 million in 2017 to £271.8 million in 2018.
Sky Raises Bills for TV and Broadband Customers
Millions of Sky subscribers will take a hit on their monthly bills from 1 April, with costs for TV, landline phone, and broadband services rising an average of £42 over the year.
The telecoms giant, which has around 6 million broadband subscribers in the UK and Ireland and 9.64 million TV accounts, said bills would rise by an average of 5.1%, or £3.50 a month. The price increases are limited to £1 or £2 on each service, but bundlers will be hit double or even triply.
For example, prices on all Sky’s Broadband packages will be rising by £1 a month, but the cost of its Talk Anytime landline service, often packaged with broadband, will rise from £8 to £10 a month.
A spokesperson for Sky, said: “We try to keep costs down and provide greater choice for our customers to pick the package that best suits them. We know price increases are never welcome, but we hope customers can see that our innovation, great content and our industry leading customer service provide good value.”
If you’re in a fixed term contract with Sky and wish to dodge the price hikes, under Ofcom regulations you have 30 days from receiving notice of them to exit your contract penalty free.
Energy Firm Solarplicity Banned from Taking on New Customers
Renewable energy supplier Solarplicity has been prohibited from taking on new customers due to its poor customer service performance and concerns over its switching process.
Ofgem imposed the ban on the small supplier for three months and cautioned that Solarplicity, which seres 60,000 domestic accounts, could have its licence revoked if it failed to make improvements.
The supplier, which previously traded as LoCO2, has also been prohibited from raising the direct debits of vulnerable customers will the ban is in place.
Mary Starks, executive director of consumers and markets at Ofgem, said: "Solarplicity must get its house in order and provide a level of service that its customers expect.”
"If not, Ofgem will take the necessary steps to ensure customers are further protected and will take the relevant action needed to do this, which may result in its licence being revoked.”
Ofgem said that between March and September, callers to Solarplicity’s helpline faced “unacceptably long call waiting times” and that an unacceptable portion of calls were dropped.
In January, Solarplicity came in at the bottom of consumer magazine Which’s league tables of energy supplier customer service, earning one-star ratings from surveyed customers on billing, customer service over the phone and online, complaints handling, and helping customers understand and manage their energy use.
A spokesperson for Solarplicity said the firm was disappointed by the ban: "We are committed to meeting the expectations of every single Solarplicity customer, but Ofgem's decision, which was made on old historical data, disregards the vast improvements that we have made to our customer service.”
Vodafone to Banish Broadband Blackspots with Super WiFi
Mobile network and ISP Vodafone will offer customers of its broadband service a new cloud-controlled smart home network solution to combat WiFi dead zones in their home. The so-called Super WiFi will deliver “fast, reliable, Wi-Fi signal to every corner of the home,” Vodafone said.
Super WIFi will apparently involve “easy-to-install small extenders, strategically placed throughout the house, to deliver a consistent signal in every room.” This network will be managed by the cloud and use self-learning algorithms to learn from and adapt to your home environment.
Ahmed Essam, Vodafone Group’s Chief Strategy Officer, said: “We know that the vast majority of people’s broadband issues are actually down to poor Wi-Fi signals in their homes – around a quarter of calls into customer care are about Wi-Fi issues. Super WiFi is a simple way to address these problems and give our customers the best possible connection in every room of their house, every day of the week.”
In the recent months several other ISPs have rolled out WiFi extenders to help customers struggling with poor interior signal, with BT launching Complete WiFi and TalkTalk offering the curiously-named Plume SuperPods.
Vodafone’s SuperWifi, the price of which hasn’t been revealed, will be offered to Vodafone subscribers in Spain first, with a European-wide rollout to follow in the next few months.
O2 Names the First Five Cities to Benefit from 5G Rollout This Year
Mobile network O2 will launch its next generation, ultrafast 5G network this year, with customers in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London to benefit first.
Details about the rollout, including the speeds offered by the network, are scant. But O2 has been collaborating with Nokia to test crucial parts of 5G technology in Central London and, along with other mobile operators, it purchased a chunk of the 5G-friendly 3.4GHz spectrum band when it was auctioned by Ofcom last year.
But while the specifics were thin, the rhetoric wasn’t, with CEO of O2 UK Mark Evans heralding 5G as “a promise of so much more – for consumers, business, industry and public services.”
“O2’s 5G network will arrive this year and we want the next-generation of mobile services to launch with a bang. 5G will benefit customers from launch, with better speeds and improved customer experience,” he said.
The three other major mobile network operators in the UK—EE, Three, and Vodafone—have also signalled their intention to commercially roll out 5G networks this year, although, like O2, likely only on limited scales.
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