'Big Six' energy firms agree to tell customers if they're overpaying


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The Independent Online

The Big Six energy firms have agreed to tell customers if they’re overpaying for home energy and show them how to switch to a better deal.

In a victory for The Independent’s Fair Energy campaign, the gas and electricity companies will write to their customers every year telling them the best deal for their household.

Vulnerable customers – who may be at risk of falling into fuel poverty because of unaffordable bills - will be contacted twice a year if they’re on the Warm Front scheme.

Customers will also be offered the best deal if their contract comes to an end or if they contact their supplier at any time to ask.

The agreement with the government will be announced today by the Deputy Prime Minister at a speech in London’s Canary Wharf.

Signing up to the deal will be EDF, E.on, British Gas, nPower, Scottish Power and SSE, the Big Six firms which collectively supply 99 per cent of British homes with heating and lighting.

But, as The Independent has reported, seven out of 10 people are on the wrong deal, meaning they pay too much for their energy.

Nick Clegg will promise today things will change. He will say: “As of this Autumn, your supplier will have to contact you with the best tariff for your needs. And if you call them, they’ll have to offer you the best deal too.”

In fact SSE has been piloting a similar scheme since October. A spokeswoman said: “These Government measures fit well with SSE’s own commitments.”

But critics say the agreement will only work if companies tell customers about the cheapest deals.

Ann Robinson of uSwitch said: “Companies must not be allowed to make assumptions about which tariff is right for customers.”

She said the deal doesn’t go far enough as the energy companies will only tell customers about their own offers.

“I hope this first step encourage consumers to gain confidence from the information to go on and compare the market more widely,” said Ms Robinson.

Mr Clegg will also today report that the government is working with energy companies to put special barcodes on energy bills. The barcodes will be able to be scanned by smart phones, allowing customers to get quotes and switch deal or supplier in minutes.