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HOUSEHOLD BILLS

There ain’t much good news out there at the moment but The Sunday Times details four reasons for consumers to be cheerful. Increased competition is bringing the cost of bills down for people who make a little effort to switch provider.

In the energy market, Airtricity will reduce gas prices next month – doubling its discount on the Bord Gais regulated tariff by 20%. To benefit, you must buy your electricity from Airtricity too but this isn’t too onerous because the supplier currently undercuts ESB prices by 13%.

However, there is a buyer beware caveat: the devil as usual, is in the detail. Airtricity requires a 12-month contract with a €100 penalty for leaving early. Also, depending on usage, it could be cheaper to use Airtricity for electricity but Flogas for gas supply.

Another area of cut-throat competition is the ever-confusing mobile phone market, where tariffs are so tangled it is hard to know what the best deals are. The newspaper quotes Tom Skuse of freetocompare.ie, a comparison site, who says Meteor’s sim-only deals are excellent if you own your phone.

Switching health insurer could also pay big dividends for the year ahead. VHI has dropped its One Plan by €50 to €660 per adult for policies switched or renewed by October 31. Quinn is charging €694 per adult and nothing for children on Essential Health policies taken out before Thursday.

Apparently, families can save between €400 and €700 by taking up these offers over the next few weeks. However, there is a proverbial health warning about switching when it comes to comparing like with like.

Dermot Goode of HealthInsuranceSavings.ie, a broker, warns: “Split cover would be the best option, moving parents to corporate plans and children to plans that cover them for free … it’s important to get advice, though, to avoid ending up on ‘dummy’ corporate plans that reduce your level of cover.”

Finally, the newspaper tackles the cost of broadband. Consumers can save €320 a year if they switch from Eircom to UPC.

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