June 19 2013 Latest news:
Adam Aiken, Editor
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Domestic energy companies – which already stand accused of price-gouging their customers – have been accused of giving “inaccurate information and dodgy advice” to people who want to switch suppliers.
In an undercover investigation by consumer champions Which?, each of the Big Six suppliers was called a dozen times within the space of a week by mystery shoppers looking to find the cheapest possible tariff.
But in nearly a third of the 72 calls, the cheapest tariffs were not offered, and Which? said there was also questionable advice offered about cashback deals and fixed prices.
Amongst the findings, Which? said:
• Southern Electric telesales staff mentioned its cheapest tariff in only three of the 12 calls;
• Seven of the 12 EDF Energy salesmen recommended its more expensive fixed-rate deals instead of its cheaper online tariff;
• Across all the companies, a third of the salespeople did not mention relevant exit fees – Scottish Power failed to reveal its £51 exit fees in nine of its 12 calls;
• British Gas staff offered its cheapest tariff in 10 of its 12 calls but offered wildly varying cashback deals alongside the tariff, ranging from nothing to £175;
• One adviser recommended signing up to Scottish Power’s three-year fix because it was so long, while another recommended the company’s one-year fix because it was so short.
“If you call an energy supplier asking for the cheapest deal, that’s exactly what you should get,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.
“It’s unacceptable for sales staff to give information that’s 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.”
Mr Lloyd said customers looking to switch fuel suppliers should insist on being given details of the cheapest possible deals, as well as checking for exit fees and asking about paying by direct debit or managing accounts online, which will usually result in a discount.
Alternatively, consider using an independent price-comparison service that promises to offer impartial information.