Economy > Consumer >
By Jim Day
21 June 2011
supermarket bils UK
energy price increases UK
energy bills / household bills / fuel bills
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whatever you're buying.
Energy firms' sales teams
over tariff switching
Customers encouraged to switch tariff
by supermarket-based sales staff
could be worse off, says Which? study
Wednesday 15 February 2012
This article was published
on guardian.co.uk at 06.30 GMT
on Wednesday 15 February 2012.
It was last modified at 06.30 GMT
on Wednesday 15 February 2012.
Supermarket sales teams for large energy companies are using underhand sales and
leaving consumers who switch tariffs worse off by hundreds of pounds a year, the
consumer group Which? has claimed.
The group went undercover to check the energy firms's sales teams who approach
shoppers in supermarkets and big shopping centres in a bid to get them to switch
supplier and said its staff were told they could save as much as £142 if they
switched supplier there and then. But when Which? crunched the numbers, it found
than many consumers would actually have been between £39 and £311 worse off had
they taken the energy companies' sales staff's advice.
Which? said that all of the sales teams based savings quotes on the assumption
that the customer was on a standard tariff – which tend to be the most expensive
Even when the undercover researchers returned to the salesperson after the sale
to provide them with the name of their cheaper tariff, none altered the quoted
savings, and only half said it could make a difference to the amount saved
In a separate investigation, Which? found that when people call up energy
companies asking for the cheapest deal, they may not be getting accurate
information and quotes every time. While four of the major energy suppliers
performed well, British Gas and E.ON still got it wrong. Similarly, when
researchers asked the salespeople in supermarkets and shopping centres about
better deals, only two out of 13 admitted there may be better offers available.
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. It's little wonder that trust in the energy
sector is so low. We want the energy suppliers to build confidence among
consumers that switching is both simple and worthwhile."
A spokesperson for the energy firms association, Energy UK, defended the role of
salesmen in the sector. "It is important that consumers can have confidence in
the sales process, which is covered by the industry's EnergySure Code. All
salespeople undergo training and the code is audited annually. All customers who
sign up to a contract will receive a written estimate, and there is often also a
check phonecall to confirm the details," he said.
"In addition, there is always at least a week's cooling-off period, so if a
customer isn't satisfied and decides that the new offer is not right for them
then they can still change their mind."
Meanwhile, Which? has launched a new initiative called The Big Switch. It is
hoping that 80,000 households will join together as a group to get a cheaper
deal. Which? is aiming to negotiate a market-leading deal with the energy
companies on behalf of those that have joined. Consumers have until 31 March to
sign up at whichbigswitch.co.uk.
sales teams misleading consumers over tariff switching,
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