Cheapest gas and electricity deals 'ignored'
- 13 October 2011
- From the section Business
Energy companies are not always offering the cheapest deals to customers wishing to switch supplier, a consumer group has claimed.
Staff failed to outline the cheapest tariffs available in a third of all calls made during a small test sample by the consumers' association Which?
The group also questioned some of the advice offered on potential savings.
A number of energy companies have suspended or stopped doorstep sales, encouraging people to call instead.
Researchers at Which? called each of six major energy suppliers 12 times in one week and asked for the cheapest deal.
Telesales staff at Southern Electric, part of the Scottish and Southern Energy Group, mentioned the cheapest tariff in three of the 12 calls.
The company said there was little price difference between the tariffs, but accepted there were some points to learn from.
EDF Energy staff offered the cheapest deal in five of 12 cases.
The company said that, at the time, the cheapest tariffs were only available to those signing up online.
Exit fees, for customers leaving energy contracts, were not mentioned in a third of all cases. Scottish Power failed to explain its £51 exit fee in nine of the 12 calls.
Which? also suggested that British Gas offered a cashback deal to one caller, but not another in the same region.
British Gas said that the cheapest tariff was not necessarily the best option for every customer, such as those who would like to have paper bills and advice over the phone.
Regulator Ofgem said that it was making plans to cut the number and complexity of tariffs available to domestic customers. It said that there was a possibility that some firms could be breaching the conditions of their licences by failing to offer the cheapest tariff.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "It is unacceptable for sales staff to give information that is plain wrong or confusing."
"Giving the right advice to customers about switching matters more than ever when so many people are struggling with escalating fuel bills and colder weather is starting to bite."
The concerns about information given during telephone calls come after two firms said they would permanently end doorstep sales of energy contracts.
British Gas, and Scottish and Southern, will only visit people's homes if invited.