British Gas has been criticised for automatically ‘rolling over’ customers onto new fixed-price tariffs, then charging them £70 to switch.
Energy regulator Ofgem has said it is ‘looking into’ complaints about British Gas, after it has emerged that the energy supplier has been locking-in customers beyond the end of their fixed-price deal.
Usually when customers come to the end of a fixed-price deal, energy suppliers move them onto their standard tariff, which customers can switch away from as they please.
However, customers on British Gas’ Price Guarantee 2009 deal, which ended in December, have been automatically rolled onto its Price Guarantee March 2011 tariff.
The new fixed-rate tariff is more expensive than the previous one, and customers will have to pay £35 per fuel if they want to switch away from it before March 2011.
Compare energy tariffs at Which? Switch to see how much you could save by switching energy suppliers.
Energy tariff price change warning
British Gas has responded to criticism by pointing out that customers were informed of the rollover, by email or post, and were given 30 days to opt-out.
But some customers have complained that this practice is unfair, as email warnings were likely to have been missed given the amount of junk mail people receive.
British Gas energy price changes
British Gas has also said that its own customer research supports its decision to automatically roll customers onto a new fixed tariff.
A spokesperson for British Gas told Which.co.uk: ‘The type of customer who likes the security of a fixed-price tariff, likes the certainty that they’ll be offered another fixed tariff at the end of it. According to the research, they’d rather have to opt-out than opt-in.’
Switch energy tariffs
If you didn’t opt-out of the new tariff within the 30-day period, you will now have to pay a £35 exit fee per fuel to switch away from the tariff.
However, a spokesperson for British Gas told Which.co.uk that the energy supplier may waive the fee for customers who were unaware of the rollover.
He said: ‘We will assess issues on a case-by-case basis and will use our discretion. If customers are adamant they didn’t receive the letter or email – for example if they were on holiday – we may waive the exit fee.’
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Head of Which? Switch Alison Morrison says: ‘It’s understandable that some customers are angry, having found themselves locked into a tariff they didn’t actively sign up for.
‘Many people appreciate the security of a fixed-price deal, but this may not necessarily be the cheapest fixed tariff for you.
‘Compare energy tariffs now to see whether you could save by switching, and if you weren’t aware that you were being rolled onto this tariff – call British Gas now to find out whether you can switch without paying a penalty.’
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You can compare energy prices and switch to a new gas and electricity supplier on Which? Switch. People who switched with us between 1 October and 31 December 2013 are predicted to save an average of £234 a year on their bills.
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