Liars! The energy firms must be stopped from ripping us off

Simon Read

SimonEnergy 300x179 Liars! The energy firms must be stopped from ripping us offYesterday’s £10.5m fine of Scottish and Southern Energy for widescale mis-selling tells us two important things. First is the pleasing fact that the energy Watchdog Ofgem is finally getting tough and, on top, is demanding stronger powers. Second, and related of course, is the fact there will be more massive fines to come.

SEE was slapped with a record fine after it was caught lying to customers about prices and the supposed  savings that could be made by switching. The dodgy tricks the firm was caught using to mislead customers so it could flog them more expensive deals included:

• customers were told they would save money but then switched to a more expensive contract
• unscrupulous salespeople claimed that customers could make much larger savings by switching to SSE than were actually possible
• customers were told they would get reductions they’re entitled to, “just like the government intended”, although there was no such thing
• salespeople slagged of rival suppliers, telling customers that other firms were making “all sorts of false promises”
• claims were made that rival suppliers were putting prices up, or that other suppliers’ price increases were higher than they actually were
• some SSE sales staff claimed the firm offered a “preferred customer tariff … with no standing charge if you want”, but didn’t tell customers they would be charged higher first tier unit rates instead of a standing charge.

The news prompted calls for a criminal investigation with several MPs suggesting the mis-selling amounted to “fraud”. One thing’s for sure, if you or I tried to flog stuff for more than it was worth while lying about its features, we wouldn’t be too surprised to then have our collars felt by the local rozzers.

But it’s not just SSE that’s in the frame for mis-selling. Rival Big Six firms Scottish Power, nPower and E.on remain under investigation by the Watchdog for dodgy sales practices. Meanwhile, in 2012, EDF was fined £4.5m for mis-selling by the Watchdog.

This week’s £10.9m fine will be paid to the Treasury. However, SSE has a £5m mis-selling fund, where customers can receive compensation if they have been mis-sold to. It claimed yesterday that all customers financially disadvantaged because of the breaches should have received a letter. [However, if you’re one of the estimated 20,000 victims of misselling by SSE, you can make a claim by calling 0845 0707388.]

I’d like to see further penalties made on energy companies caught lying. Ofgem can fine firms but can’t actually force them to award compensation to customers they have ripped off. That should change in the upcoming Energy Bill but the change can’t come soon enough. The regulator seems ready to bare its teeth at rogue firms but needs stronger powers to do so.

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  • welshwitch

    Sorry but what you say is largely assertion, inaccurate or untrue.

    We were given a non-functioning log-in code, and told when we rang that this was the result of your picking up 40,000 more customers and not having the staff to deal with them.

    We were told that you could save us £120 on our previous year’s consumption, ( c £950) NOT an estimate but the actual amount we had paid, which would have made this year’s bills £830 plus whatever rise the various companies imposed. Depending on how much more energy we’ve used between mid-March and now as a result of the sudden cold snap, and to cover the last 4 months of our period with you, by August we’ll have paid at least double what we paid last year and probably more, since we’ve been given various sums that we owe or are according to you predicted to owe by August, the highest being nearly £600.

    We found it most unsettling not to be asked for monthly readings but to be faced with constant statements with totals apparently plucked from thin air, so after a few months we rang to say we wanted to leave, but were categorically informed that we were not allowed to leave until we had been with you for a year. This, it turns out, is a lie.
    I don’t understand the comment about the amount of the DD affecting the price of what we use – I said nothing so nonsensical.
    I note your claims about the satisfaction level of your customers; as soon as I posted adverse comments about OVO’s claims on other fora I was greeted with accounts by other dissatisfied OVO users, who complained of poor admin, inaccurate information given out over the phone and of course high charges. I suppose we are all the unlucky ” few”.
    Suffice it to say that we shall send a cheque to pay off OVO and move elsewhere the day after our agreement with you ends; we have no intention of giving you yet more money, in this case £60, for doing less than you did for nothing when signing us up.
    and I don’t wish to give you my phone number so that you can pester us with calls making yet more claims.

  • Chris Gilfoy


    I can promise you I’ve not said anything untrue!

    We did have a time before Xmas where we did struggle to cope with demand and our call and email wait times were higher than we (and our customers) would have liked, but now we’re down to > 1 day for email replies and we’re answering calls in less than two minutes. I’m sorry about the incorrect My Ovo login and the reasons you were given when you called in.

    When we quote savings figures they’re not against previous years’ contracts. They’re either against the period of the proposed Ovo contract vs your previous tariff for that period or they’re a direct calculation against competitor tariffs if you hadn’t supplied previous tariff details. In other words, your energy bills are higher this year, but they’d have been higher still if you’d have stayed with your previous supplier (without knowing your previous supplier or tariff this is an assumption based on us having been one of the cheapest tariffs over the last six months).

    I offer unreserved apologies that you were told you couldn’t leave before the end of your contract. As you note, you can leave at any time, albeit with cancellation fees that are made clear when signing up. These terms are explicit in all of our contracts and across our website, so it’s very disappointing to hear that inaccurate info was passed on by one of our team. It’s this sort of misleading info that we’re trying to be better than, so if we’re doing the same, then we need to stamp it out. We invest a lot into our training and monitoring and so I’d hope it unlikely to still be happening.

    I completely agree that improvements were needed on the meter read reminder front. We now run a monthly prize draw for people who submit meter readings and offer reminders in a number of ways so I hope you’ve noticed this change.

    The DD amount/unit price comment was because I wondered if you might have confused increased DD payments with a higher cost for the energy you’re using – a common misconception!

    I completely understand about the phone call. Didn’t want to pester you – just wanted to find out what went wrong, but you’ve made that clear so I’ll make sure it gets looked into. As you note, we can’t claim to be perfect, but we’re really, truly trying to be better and so it’s important we properly digest criticism.

    For reference the £30 per fuel cancellation fee is related to loss of income vs the energy we’ve bought on your behalf for the duration of your contract. If people leave their contract early it impacts the efficiency of our trading. It’s not an ‘admin’ fee for cancelling the contract, which as you say, doesn’t entail a great deal of time from our customer service team.

    I really do appreciate the reply and, as above, I’m truly sorry you’ve had such a poor experience of Ovo. We’re improving all the time and I hope we can win you back in future both on service and on price.



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