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Energy telesales – how much can you trust their ‘deals’?

Woman looking confused with lots of telephone receivers around her head

Our latest energy telesales investigation has found some great improvements – but Eon and British Gas are still getting it wrong, despite the latter promising to have an ‘honest conversation’ with consumers.

Last time we investigated energy telesales, the leading suppliers failed to tell us about their cheapest deals in nearly a third of the 72 calls we made, despite the fact that we asked for this specifically.

We put pressure on the companies to improve and overall we’ve seen some great improvements in our latest telesales test. But consumers are clearly still being misled.

Incredibly, when we asked how much the cheapest deal would cost us this time, British Gas gave us a different price in every call – only one of which we believe to be correct.

Switching horror stories

But what’s your experience of switching over the phone? In my last conversation on telesales – several of you came forward with horror stories. Alan Irons said:

‘I’ve just spent 10 months fighting Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) concerning inaccurate tariff advice.’

And Snori complained:

‘SSE’s customer service is truly appalling – the staff appear to be incapable of providing accurate tariff information or providing direct answers to simple questions.’

Meanwhile Andrew Kneeshaw discovered how energy suppliers don’t always offer their customers the cheapest deal:

‘I had a renewal offer from Scottish Power claiming that they’d give me a discount on rolling over an existing internet based contract. Looking at your comparison site, I found they offered a cheaper deal but the tariff code was slightly different. I rang and asked if this alternative was cheaper. They said yes and immediately put me on it. But why didn’t they do that in the first place?’

It’s not all bad

However, there were positive stories too, such as Schnookie’s:

‘I switched to Co-operative Energy in July 2011 and have been very pleased with the result. They provided coherent simple instructions on the transfer and forewarned me, correctly as it turned out, that Scottish Power would try to retain me by offering what appeared to be a good deal.’

John Ward added:

‘Like Schnookie, I recently signed up with Cooperative Energy because I liked their fair, open and ethical conduct and I think we shall stay with them for as long as possible because of their honest approach and intentions taking the long-term view.’

And Dave G reported his experience of Scottish Power:

‘Have been with Scottish Power for several years and have no complaints… they advise me the best deal available.’

Best way to switch

So would you trust an energy supplier to offer you the best deal over the phone? Or would you always want to check how their offer compares using an online comparison site?

Well, right now there is a third option – signing up to The Big Switch. This is a brand new – and rather exciting – opportunity to join together and push energy suppliers for a better deal.

This works by signing up at whichbigswitch.co.uk before the end of March and then Which? negotiates the best deal from energy suppliers using the collective power of the thousands of people who have signed up. Then decide whether you want to switch to the deal on offer.

I’ve already added my name (along with 75,000 others), and while it would take a pretty good deal to tear me away from Ecotricity – I can’t wait to see what savings I could make.

Do you trust your energy company to offer you the best deal they've got?

No (95%, 413 Votes)

Yes (5%, 22 Votes)

Total Voters: 440

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Like 99% of companies operating in the UK at this time, energy companies are in the business of making money. Providing goods or services is ancillary to that .

I for one am not surprised they don’t know their own business very well, as until there’s someone or something to pull them up, the management just would give any thought in spending money on something that doesn’t make money, like staff training. And yes I know its short sighted, but that’s just how senior management thinks. So until something happens to force a change its unfortunately down to each and every one of us to be at the top of our game to out smart them by shopping around etc. Have you noticed that only new customers seem to qualify for good deals, and not the loyal renewing ones

At the time of writing it is 10-1 against trusting your energy company to offer their best deal. I must be the sole exception to the prevailing response for I genuinely do trust The Cooperative Energy. I have no desire to switch if it can be avoided so I shall not be signing up to The Big Switch although I believe it is an excellent exercise and I await the results with interest as it will improve competition and honesty in the industry.

Colin says:
13 February 2012

Scottish Power have advised me by email that my one year minimum contract is due to expire and suggested the lowest price deal. I checked and it is their best deal. However, I will probably change to nPower because they should be about £40 cheaper and by going through Topcashback or Quidco I will get a £90 cashback. (I used this when I transferred to Scottish Power last year and got around the same cashback successfully)
If it was not for the cashback, I probably would not change.