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Give the energy companies a good grilling

Word 'energy' in bulb for energy suppliers

Ever wanted to put your electricity or gas supplier on the spot about confusing bills, terrible tariffs or questionable sales practices? That’s precisely the opportunity MPs have today.

In a week when British Gas told us to expect further price rises, the Co-op’s announced that it’s joining the energy market, and the Green Deal has faced renewed scrutiny in Parliament; MPs shouldn’t be short of questions for energy bosses.

A radical overhaul’s well over due

The Big Six energy companies are to face the might of the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee today, and top of their agenda will be Ofgem’s recently proposed ‘radical overhaul’ of the energy market.

You may remember that Ofgem’s overhaul was announced to great fanfare in March this year, when the regulator ordered energy companies to sweep away tariff complexity so that households could easily compare prices.

All well and good. But sadly this wasn’t the first Ofgem investigation to show that the energy market is failing consumers. Back in 2008, Ofgem conducted a similar ‘probe’ and told suppliers to stop selling complex and confusing tariffs.

Three years on and the number of tariffs have increased, while customer satisfaction remains lower than in most other industries.

Sort out energy companies MPs

With Ofgem still consulting about its proposed changes, MPs should use this opportunity to stiffen the regulator’s resolve – and not let the energy companies wriggle off the hook.

Ofgem’s recommendations, such as making so-called “standard” or “evergreen” tariffs easily comparable, are a step in the right direction. But why not go further still and make sure that all energy tariffs are fair and transparent?

So come on MPs! Stick up for your constituents and press the energy companies to make tariffs easy to understand and compare against each other – so that we can all find the best deal.

Without such commitments at the Select Committee today, then maybe it will be time for Ofgem to step in and clean up the sector.

What do you think should be done with the energy market? Should the government do more to control energy companies, or can we trust Ofgem and the Big Six to give us a fair deal?

Mrs Mason says:
12 May 2011

I received a letter from E-On yesterday saying my current plan Energy FixOnline 8 was coming to an end on 1 July and I was switching to Energy On Line which is a variable tariff. I switched to British Gas following a price comparison through Uswitch who sent an email to say that the switch could take from 4 – 12 weeks to complete. If it takes the longer period then I pay a higher variable rate for a few weeks with E-On. If they surpise me at 4 weeks, I pay a £30 penalty for leaving the plan early. I have been informed that I cannot pick the date, as I would be able to do with a phone company say. This is all on top of the fact that regardless of when the switch takes over I will not receive a discount for my last statement. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t – are they really allowed to be so obstructive when I want to move companies? E-On said to delay the switch by a week just to make sure that the switch is after the plan ends although of course they can’t guarantee when … She also said that if the switch starts before my plan ends, ‘maybe’ customer services will take the £30 off if I ‘challenge’ them. On a different note, E-ON are now trumpeting fan fares that they are now a Tesco reward partner. This sits uneasily with me – energy is a necessity so if the companies are viewing this as such, why are we able to select this as a reward in the same vein as a trip to Alton Towers? Why are the MPs letting them rip us off?

Last August I switched from ‘Southern Electric’ whilst in a protracted dispute, to E.on on/as a single fuel/online/direct debit customer to take advantage of all the discounts going, oh and yes, E.on also threw in Clubcard points as well – 15! per month – as if in the great scheme of things this will make a difference! But to mis-quote, “every little bit…”. Now when a missive flew through the door about the deal, £10 vouchers = £15 @ E.on, does on the face it seem that 50% more for doing nothing….fairly good! But I digress. Vouchers are gilding the lily so as to speak. My first hope is that E.on did actually give you what warning you were obliged to receive under the tariff? Did they offer another plan which was equal to if not better before ‘deciding’ to change you without recourse, by the looks of it, NO! Given that, all energy companies want to lock you in for life or as long as possible, or bleed you dry dare you leave!

Like yourself I’d go balistic, and for less, I’d want to get even!!! The point though is simple, E.on and any other offer a tariff. Should ‘they’ choose to close it with the sole purpose to hike into higher rates, breaches ‘their’ contract with you. To penalise on top of that because ‘they’ ended the contract, is a no no.

Sit on their desk, tell them you are notwithstanding to this orchestrated manipulation which will cause financial loss to me (you). Tell them, close the tariff by all means, however, as there are no other suitable other plans/tariffs ‘they’ are acting unreasonably to prevent your leaving. After all your going elsewhere is being forced by ‘them’, not a whim by you.

This falls under ‘unfair terms & conditions’ should they persist they can’t block/prevent your changing suppliers, just don’t leave the plan until the date it expires…THAT’S the rub. If you do go to British Gas! make the changeover date the same.

By the by, if you have already, did you do via the Nectar site? They are are offering thousands of points to new punters! I’m not tempted although I’ve got Nectar, Tesco, and Co-op Cards just to make sure! Regards perhaps plenty of tweets would help as well?