Nothing splits opinion like utility bills, especially if you happen to live in a shared house. Students who share accommodation and want to avoid arguments and potentially permanently damaging friendships often turn to bill management companies, like Split The Bills, to handle everything and make life easier.
The concept of bill management is becoming increasingly popular, but what exactly does it entail and is the industry doing enough to help its customers and are the companies out there being as transparent as they should be?
Let’s clear up any confusion by looking at four of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of using a bill management service and the team here at Split The Bills has done to change things for the better.
One of the most contentious things about using a bill management company is the final bill. There’s nothing sinister about it though. This is simply where the bill management company compares what customers have paid in with what they’ve paid out to their suppliers. The difference is simply refunded or billed back to the customer.
Sounds perfectly fair, doesn’t it? The problem however isn’t with the principle, it’s with the timing. The big gripe customers have is the amount of time it takes to receive their final bill. In reality, it can take months for bill management companies to receive the final bills from all the utility suppliers. If the customer is in credit, that’s a welcome windfall. If their final balance is in debit, it’s not great for customers to have to fork out for an unexpected extra bill a month down the line.
Unable to streamline the deeply rooted processes and timescales of the multiple suppliers they use, our team put their heads together to shake up the Split The Bills product offering. They came up with a simpler solution that’s more in line with an ‘bills-inclusive’ option, often offered by landlords and letting agents across the nation.
Nicholas Lambrou, director of Nicholas Humphreys Estate Agent, said: “An all-inclusive option provides each tenant living inside the property with total peace of mind that all their utility expenses are taken care of under one simple payment.
Our new Unlimited Energy plan takes away any worries of being bitten by a large final bill to pay – as there’s no final energy bill at all. It may cost a few pence more than our Eco Saver Energy plan, yet it totally removes any risk of the customer going over their allowance as all usage is included in the price. It also gives customers real clarity and peace of mind as they are charged the same fixed price each month.
The vast majority of bill management companies’ customers are students who’ve so far only ever lived at home and have relied on parents to take care of boring stuff like bills. Understandably, having no experience of setting up or paying utility bills isn’t ideal, especially as there’s a lot to know about each service. This can be overwhelming, confusing and lead to genuine frustration if something unexpected happens along the way. Like what? Well, something like submitting regular meter readings to ensure the customer is billed accurately. Ignore the requests or forget to send readings and it could bite them in the end.
Ashley Tate, founder of Split The Bills sympathises; “This is a big issue with bill management companies. That’s why we go out of our way to help inexperienced customers overcome this and try to educate where we can. We make things as easy and effortless as possible throughout the entire customer experience. Also, my team being on hand to chat through any questions, 9 to 5 weekdays, is a big help, too.”
It usually takes around 4 to 6 weeks to transfer gas and electric over to a new supplier – consumers and the bill management companies all wish the process was quicker, but they’re in the hands of the utility companies. What this means to new customers is that in the interim, they will be billed by their current supplier and need to pay them, as well as the bill management company for their energy, both at the same time. It’s a real double whammy that understandably causes lots of unhappiness, especially as students aren’t exactly cash rich.
Ashley Tate of Split The Bills thinks that’s unfair and has an innovative solution that is proving very popular; “Our new bill management service enables new customers to upload their previous supplier’s final bill to us and we’ll pay it at no extra cost. You can understand just how well that goes down with students.”
To be fair, Split The Bills don’t promise to be cheaper than customers going direct to suppliers. For example, we freely admit that you’ll often get a cheaper deal as energy suppliers usually base their tariffs on family usage, which can be a lot less than student usage.
Jake Butler of Save The Student, agrees; “If you go for inclusive bills it can save you a small amount of time and effort, but the potential savings make non-inclusive much better.”
What bill management companies offer is a service that makes life much easier for customers, as it removes having to calculate who owes what to who. There are bill-splitting apps out there that will apportion bills amongst tenants, however students are still left with the awkwardness of checking housemates have paid their share and chasing them up when they haven’t.
Charlotte Sides, Customer Experience Manager at Split The Bills sums it up well; “We take away the hassle of dealing with multiple people paying multiple suppliers. That’s something students really appreciate and place a value on, especially when they’re needing to concentrate on what’s important to them.”
As the bill management industry expands, with new companies coming to market each year, there is definitely a want for an easier way to handle shared bills amongst multiple housemates, rather than going direct. That’s not to say Split The Bills is for everyone – if you’re confident in setting up and paying your shared bills yourself, they probably aren’t for you. If you’re new to the world of bills or want a less stressful life without having to chase your mates for money or dealing with multiple suppliers, then check out the new and improved Split The Bills packages.
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