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Are you paying over the odds for boiler cover?

Written by: Emma Lunn
Which? claims that boiler cover isn’t cost effective for most consumers and many would be better off paying for repairs and services as needed.

The consumer champion asked more than 7,000 of its members about their experiences of boiler repairs and services. It then compared respondents with a policy including at least a service and repairs against those who did not have boiler cover to work out whether boiler cover is more cost effective.

Which? found that boiler cover was cost effective for just 0.4% of its members who had boiler cover with British Gas, and 1% of members who had boiler cover with another company.

Those surveyed paid an average of £297 a year for boiler cover but only one in five (21%) had to call an engineer for boiler repairs in the past 12 months.

Those without cover paid an average of £87 a year for an annual service, plus any repairs when needed – meaning consumers stand to make substantial savings by ditching boiler cover.

Cheap introductory deals

Which? found that boiler cover is often cheap to begin with, with customers being lured in by introductory deals, but prices usually climb after the first year. Despite the high likelihood of getting a pricier renewal quote, only a quarter (27%) of survey respondents tried to negotiate a better deal.

Which? found that seven in 10 (70%) of renewal quotes in the sample were more expensive than initial quotes, one in five (21%) were the same, and just 3% were lower.

British Gas was the market leader with the largest sample size in Which?’s survey, but researchers found it provides poor value for money for long-term customers.

British Gas customers surveyed who had been with British Gas for one to two years paid, on average, 7% more each year than customers of other companies. After three to four years, they faced a 19% higher bill than customers of other providers.

Last week saw the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ban two British Gas Homecare adverts for claiming that emergency callouts were available to all customers at short notice.

Independent engineers

Which?’s research also showed that consumers may be better off using an independent gas engineer for a boiler service or repair.

Two thirds of survey respondents used a local independent or Which? Trusted Trader gas engineer for a service or repair. Independent engineers received generally positive reviews and usually worked out cheaper than a big brand.

Some home emergency policies include some boiler repairs – and sometimes even a replacement, so it is worth consumers checking the terms of their policy.

Which? advises boiler cover customers to consider whether they are getting value for money from their policy. If they decide to remain covered, they should check the levels of cover, shop around for other providers willing to offer a lower quote, or haggle with their provider when renewing policies.

Lisa Barber, Which? home products and services editor, said: “Year after year, our research has found that boiler cover is a false economy and most people would be better off paying for an annual service and repairs when needed.

“If you do prefer having boiler cover for peace of mind, then it pays to shop around and haggle with your current provider to make sure you’re getting the best deal available.”

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