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Energy firms accused over cheap deal advice

Energy firms accused over cheap deal advice

Category: Gas and electricity

Updated: 13/10/2011
First Published: 13/10/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Energy companies stand accused of giving inaccurate information and wrong advice to people who ring up to switch their gas and electricity tariffs.

As part of an undercover investigation, Which? called each of the six major energy suppliers 12 times in one week.

But despite clearly being asked for the cheapest deal, in nearly a third of the calls the providers failed to offer their cheapest tariff.

Advice given with regards to potential savings, cashback deals and fixed prices has also been labelled as 'questionable'.

During the investigation, Southern Electric telesales staff only mentioned its cheapest tariff in three of the 12 calls, while seven of the 12 EDF Energy salespeople recommended its more expensive fixed-rate deals instead of its cheaper online tariff.

Across all the companies, one third of the salespeople did not mention relevant exit fees, and Scottish Power failed to reveal its £51 exit fee in nine of the 12 calls.

Although British Gas staff offered its cheapest tariff in ten of the 12 calls, they offered wildly varying cashback deals alongside this tariff, ranging from £0 to £175.

Even within the same region offers varied wildly – a caller from one London postcode was offered £125 cashback and another was offered nothing.

With all the major energy firms recently announcing price rises, and with winter on the way, homeowners are being urged to shop around for their gas and electricity in order to secure the best deal.

But with more than a quarter of customers looking to switch relying on telephone advice from energy suppliers to get an improved tariff, Which? said it is 'unacceptable' for sales staff to give information that is clearly wrong.

"Our advice to customers is that if you are going to switch, make sure you insist on being told the cheapest possible deal," said Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director.

"Check for exit fees and ask about paying by direct debit or managing your account online as this will usually get you a discount.

"Or compare all the available offers using an independent comparison website or phone line to get the best deal.

"Switching is actually much easier to do than you might think and can save you money."

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