Cheapest gas and electricity deals 'ignored'


Some people say that they do not trust their energy provider

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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.

'Fees ignored'

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.

Telephone Many people use energy companies' phonelines for information on switching

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    I have switched suppliers and tariffs several times. It has never been in any meaningful way cheaper. This is because there is no real competition, just a cartel. There is no way that the average mortal can decide which is the best deal, it is just too complicated. So much for free market competition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    No administration has effectively nor willingly tried to enforce proper practice with energy suppliers believing that "the market is the true regulator" well perhaps it can be but only when the providers aren't the ones rigging the market to suit their own agenda whilst cynically holding the end user to ransom. Come on parliament look after the idiots that put you there for a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Why are prices complex?
    Can I remind you what used to happen. People used to pay for the gas/elec as well as a standing charge.
    People did not like this as they said why should I pay for it if I do not use it?
    For this reason the companies brought in the 2 tier price structure which means that if you use no fuel you pay nothing - as customers requested.
    Customer feedback created complex bills

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I was amazed to read in the article that utility companies can, and do, charge exit fees! Personally, I feel that the "free market" is anything but and surely this proves the point as any savings I may make by exercising my choice to change suppliers could be eroded by these exit fees.

    How is this "more choice for the consumer"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It is typical of rip off Britain and a couldn't care less government to allow power suppliers to get away with this. A recent TV documentary asked some pretty clever people to quietly sit down and work out the cheapest options, the majority were most confused, why should we be expected to fathom this nonesense out, especially pensioners, we should have best options explained to us as by right.


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