Energy giants are misleading customer on cheapest deals
The six leading UK energy suppliers are guilty of giving customers the wrong advice – and failing to offer consumers the cheapest tariffs, according to Which?.
In an undercover investigation, where the consumer watchdog called up each of the companies 12 times during a week, none of the 'Big Six' managed to provide information on the cheapest quote.
They also failed to provide relevant information on exit penalties fees.
Scottish and Southern Electric (SSE), Scottish Power and EDF Energy were the worst culprits.
In only three out of 12 calls were Which? offered the cheapest tariff by SSE, while EDF Energy only offered the cheapest deal in five of its 12 calls.
Ducking the issues
In response to the investigation, an SSE spokesperson said "the product we offer depends upon the customer's needs", while EDF Energy said its cheaper online deals are intended to be sold online rather than over the telephone.
However, Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, believes suppliers are ducking the issue:
"If you call an energy supplier asking for their cheapest deal, that's exactly what you should get."
"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," he adds.
The investigation also exposed that Scottish Power was guilty of only revealing its £51 exit fee in three out of the 12 calls.
Which? has also pulled up British Gas for offering customers vastly different cashback amounts as part of its cheapest deal.
Not to be confused with an early repayment charge (ERC). Exit fees are levied on top of ERCs, which are a method of clawing back lost interest on a loan repaid early. By contrast, exit fees are charged for the administrative work this entails. They are charged as flat fees, from £150 to £300. However, in January 2007, following mortgage lenders surreptitiously raising fees sometimes by fivefold, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) intervened and most mortgage lenders removed exit fees from new mortgages. If you paid exit fees on your mortgage before January 2007, you may be able to claim them back.