WE ALL know that finding the best deal on our energy bills can be something of a minefield.

Not only do the Big Six energy companies - British Gas, EDF, Npower, E.on, Scottish Power and SSE - regularly raise their standard tariffs but, according to a report released in August, they fail to reward us for loyalty too.

Indeed, confirming what many of us already knew, energy provider Bulb compiled five years’ worth of Ofgem data and found that in general the Big Six offer introductory rates to entice customers in then when the original term ends switch them onto their - generally much higher - standard variable rates.

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According to Bulb, this meant that customers of the Big Six paid an average of £853 more than they should have over the five-year period.

Is the answer, as was mooted in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May this week, to introduce a price cap on energy bills?

Though the Tory Party pledged to make such a move in its election manifesto it has gone quiet on the matter since. This has not gone down with John Penrose, the Conservative member for Weston, Worle and the Villages in the south of England, who, along with Labour’s Caroline Flint and the SNP’s North Ayrshire and Arran member Patricia Gibson, has called on the Government to revive the plan.

In a letter signed by almost 200 MPs, they urged the Government to “work with us and Ofgem to stop this Big Six stitch-up” by looking again at a cap.

While Ofgem has already introduced a price cap on pre-payment energy meters that it estimates will cut the average bill by £19 a year, the MPs said in their letter that an across the board cap would “help the millions of households who Ofgem seem set to ignore”.

But is a price cap really the kind of help consumers need?

When the Government first announced its proposed cap earlier this year CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn warned that it could inadvertently harm consumers by taking away the incentive both for customers to seek out the cheapest possible deals and for the industry to offer them.

“It’s important that customers are at the heart of a competitive energy market, and more is needed to engage people in switching,” she said at the time.

“A major market intervention, such as a price cap, could lead to unintended consequences, for example dampening consumers’ desire to find the best deal on the market and hitting investor confidence.”

This argument has reared its head again, with Stephen Murray, an energy expert at price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, which clearly has a vested interested as its economic model is built around consumers switching, noting that a price cap could lead to consumer apathy.

“However well intentioned, any type of price cap, whether relative or absolute, will give customers a false sense of security and leave the millions languishing on expensive standard variable tariffs in a situation where they believe the price they're paying for their energy is fair and accurate,” he said.

“A relative price cap is unlikely to have any direct impact on the price of standard variable tariffs, but it is likely to reduce the availability of the cheapest tariffs in the market. Fewer people switching will also discourage new entrants to the market, meaning fewer challengers driving competition and innovation.”

The easiest way to find a cheaper energy tariff is to use one of the many price comparison sites on the market, with their algorithms taking the hard work of matching your estimated energy usage with the most suitable deals on the market.

A number of schemes are also in operation that seek to drive prices down through the power of collective bargaining. One, run by North Lanarkshire Council, has already saved 1,600 households in the region of £300 a year each by negotiating a fixed price deal on their behalf.

The local authority has launched a new version of its It Pays To Switch scheme, with households from all over Scotland being offered the chance to participate by October 10.

Given the intervention from MPs, the Tories are likely to discuss a possible price cap at their conference this week, though Murray said consumers should take matters into their own hands now rather than waiting for political rhetoric to turn into action.

“As we approach winter, consumers should ignore any plans for political or industry intervention, take matters into their own hands and switch their energy supplier immediately,” Murray said.

“Savings are huge if they do, and by switching to a competitive, fixed rate tariff households could save over £300 a year – any saving offered by a price cap pales by comparison.”

Anyone choosing to handle their own switch via a price comparison site should take note of a Competition and Markets Authority study released this this week, though, and make sure they compare the comparators first.

You see, just like the energy companies they seek to call out, not all price comparison sites offer every consumer the best price for their circumstances, highlighting that their own mantra that ‘it pays to shop around’ is an accurate one.