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British Gas offers ‘free’ electricity to smart meter users but you can save more by switching

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
01/07/2016
British Gas has unveiled a new tariff which offers ‘free’ electricity on the weekend to new and existing customers who already have or are eligible for a smart meter.

The energy giant has launched its new FreeTime plan to give customers free electricity between 9am and 5pm on Saturday or 9am to 5pm on Sunday, depending on which day you chose.

It claimed this is an “industry first” and following earlier trials, customers could expect to save around £60 per year by shifting energy use.

The Saturday or Sunday FreeTime tariff is fixed until March 2018 with the average dual fuel bill standing at £1,001.  British Gas said it will be “the cheapest dual fuel deal it currently offered”, although there are other dual fuel tariffs in existence costing the average household under £800 per year.

What you need to know about FreeTime

Free electricity on the weekend is certainly headline-grabbing, but there are some important points to note about the tariff:

  • While the unit rate is 0p/kWh, you’ll still pay a daily standing charge – 26.01p per day
  • You must set up an online account
  • British Gas confirms that the energy you use at other times won’t increase to compensate for the free electricity, but the unit rate at other times will be fixed to its standard variable rate
  • You won’t actually get free electricity until your smart meter is successfully installed and there could be a delay from the time it’s installed and when your tariff becomes live
  • Not all areas are suitable for a smart meter – British Gas has so far installed 2.4 million of these. If you switch and you’re not eligible, you can choose to go on another British Gas tariff. If it doesn’t hear from you within 30 days, you’ll be added to its pricey standard variable tariff.
  • There’s an exit fee of £20 per fuel so if you’re a dual fuel customer, you’ll pay £40 to leave
  • The FreeTime tariff isn’t available to pay as you go/pre-payment customers or those on Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs.

While Sarwjit Sambhi, managing director of UK home at British Gas said hundreds of thousands of smart meter customers are already benefitting from accurate bills because of smart meters and they’ll now be able to enjoy free electricity, a comparison site said the savings could be beaten by other deals available.

Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket.com said: “The concept of free weekend electricity for customers with smart meters is a positive move by British Gas, but the smart meter roll-out is still in its early stages with functionality across suppliers still creating challenges.

“For customers on this new tariff there are potential savings to be made depending on usage levels, but they are likely to be significantly smaller than shopping around and switching to a market leading fixed rate deal where customers could shave over £300 off their bills.”

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