Big Six accused in costly tariffs row
Energy salesmen 'used dubious tactics'
Energy firms came under fresh fire last night after evidence came to light of them using dubious sales tactics to sell expensive tariffs.
Undercover researchers discovered that anyone who switched tariff based on the sales patter of in-store representatives of the big energy companies could be worse off by hundreds of pounds.
Energy companies' salespeople in supermarkets and shopping centres told researchers they would make annual savings of between £20 and £142. But the customers would actually have been between £39 and £311 worse off if they had taken up the deals, according to Which?.
In a separate investigation of energy companies' call centres, people who called up and asked for the cheapest deal did not always get accurate information and quotes. British Gas and Eon got it wrong, Which? said.
Meanwhile, when researchers asked salespeople in supermarkets and shopping centres about better deals, only two out of 13 admitted there might be better deals available. The news comes as pressure mounted on the Big Six energy firms to offer fairer prices and help vulnerable people in fuel poverty.
By last night, more than 86,000 people had signed up to the Big Switch prices campaign being run by Which? with online campaigners 38 Degrees. Meanwhile the "End the Big Six Energy Fix" fuel-poverty campaign launched in The Independent last week has attracted 7,000 supporters.
Discussing the sales tactics used by energy companies, Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: "It's simply not good enough for energy salespeople to be quoting misleading individual savings to people who sign up to switch in supermarkets."
Which? researchers spoke to reps from SSE (selling M&S Energy tariffs), British Gas (selling Sainsbury's Energy deals), EDF Energy and Eon. They posed as customers who did not have the name of their tariff or their consumption figures with them. They said they only knew the name of their energy supplier and how much they were paying a month.
They were told by salespeople that by switching to Sainsbury's Energy Standard tariff they would be better off by up to £68. But they would actually have been worse off by up to £311, said Which?.
Over at M&S, salespeople told researchers they would be up to £46 better off with the the M&S Energy Standard rate, but Which? calculated that switching would leave people up to £95 worse off.
The energy firms hit back at Which?'s figures saying their researchers were given estimates and therefore it didn't make for a fair comparison. But Richard Lloyd said: "It's little wonder that trust in the energy sector is so low."
Case study: 'It's like a cartel'
Rita Young, 76, a widow from Peterborough, lives on pension and pension credit
"I'm a widow. I live on £161 per week, £63 of that goes on fuel. It's not pleasant. I make sure I don't get up until late so I don't have to put the heating on. I stay in bed and watch television in the morning rather than get up. That saves another couple of hours of fuel. I turn it off an hour before I go to bed at 9 o'clock, that way you save a bit.
"I wear lots of cardigans and use lots of blankets. It's annoying, I've got things I want to do but you've got to spend your day thinking about fuel.
"I get my state pension and, at present, pension credit, but even that they're cutting out from April so I'm going to be losing £3 a week on my pension credit. When the state pension goes up £5 a week, I'll only get a £2 increase. I'm with E.ON but all the suppliers are the same – one puts it up then all the others put it up. It's like a cartel. They're not doing anything to help us."
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
South Korea ferry disaster: Released transcripts show chaos and confusion in the moments before ferry sinks
Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
South Korea ferry disaster: Families watch as remains of Sewol victims returned to shore
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Abdullah Deghayes: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager killed in Syria conflict
Ukraine crisis: Helicopter gunships take country closer to all-out war
- 1 Chelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Graceless reaction of Jose Mourinho a sad effort to hide his own flaws
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
iJobs Money & Business
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Database Team Lead ( Leadership, Sybase, Compute...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET D...
£25000 - £35000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET S...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Harrington Starr: Trade Suppor...