Customers demand price rise warningSuppliers should tell customers before increases

09 August 2009

A couple looking at some bills

An informal agreement may be a good starting point

New research from Which? has found that 98% of people feel that gas and electricity suppliers should tell customers about price rises before they take effect.

Current regulations say that power companies like British Gas, Eon, ScottishPower, Scottish & Southern, EDF Energy and Npower, have up to 65 days from the date of a price rise to tell customers about it. This means they can send out notification with quarterly bills.

Customers then have 10 days to decide if they want to switch to a cheaper supplier – in which case their existing supplier should not apply the price rise.

Suppliers favoured

On Friday Ofgem published the latest stage of its probe into the UK energy markets and has proposed to increase the period to 20 days but Which? says this situation would still favour suppliers over consumers and that customers should be told before prices go up.

Dr Fiona Cochrane, senior policy adviser at Which?, said: ‘Surely it’s not unreasonable for people to be told in advance if prices are going to go up? It’s time for the Government to step in and make sure Ofgem delivers on its mission to put consumers first.’

Simpler bills

Dr Cochrane added that Which? is also calling for simpler bills and minimum standards for tariffs, of which there are currently more than 4,000 available to UK consumers.

‘Despite recognising that tariffs are confusing, Ofgem has failed to take action. We need minimum standards for tariffs so consumers can make meaningful comparisons between the thousands that are available and find the best deal for them,’ she said.

Cheaper tariffs

Research by the consumer organisation also found that 95% of people say their supplier should tell them when cheaper tariffs are available. And eight in ten people said they agreed that prices should be guaranteed for a minimum period when a customer switches to a new tariff.

Which? Switch

People switching their gas and electricity to a dual fuel tariff through Which? Switch saved on average £257 on their annual energy bills last year. Which? Switch also features the results of the Which? Utilities Satisfaction Survey – giving a picture of how customers rate their energy suppliers' service.

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