British Gas, Britain’s biggest energy supplier, is the subject of a probe for potentially overcharging customers who wanted to switch to another company.
The energy regulator Ofgem’s investigation will also examine whether British Gas broke rules on communicating with customers who were trying to switch their gas or electricity supply.
Energy companies must not charge exit fees to customers switching in the last 49 days of their fixed energy deal.
But consumer website MoneySavingExpert shared information with Ofgem that it says showed British Gas customers were wrongly told they would have to pay up to £60 to switch energy firm.
Ofgem said it will be ‘conducting a thorough investigation to establish whether British Gas failed to comply with the conditions of its license’. It added that opening an investigation ‘does not imply that we have made any findings about non-compliance.’
Which? managing director of home products and services, Alex Neill, said: ‘Suppliers should be making it as easy as possible for customers to switch. If British Gas is found to have put off customers who wanted to switch, then the regulator must swiftly hold them to account.’
Update 20 July 2017: British Gas has also paid out £1.1 million to domestic and small business customers in compensation for its agents missing appointments or being late, and not paying them the required compensation on time.
Read on to find out when you do – and don’t – have to pay exit fees to switch energy supplier, plus which other energy firms are under investigation.
Compare gas and electricity prices using our independent switching service, Which? Switch, to find the best energy deal for you. Or you can call us on 0800 410 1149 or 01259 220235.
Energy exit fees – when do I have to pay?
Fixed energy deals often have exit fees (also called termination fees or cancellation fees). This is the amount that you have to pay if you choose to switch to another deal or energy firm before your current tariff has expired. They can range from £5 to £30 per fuel.
But in the last 49 days of your fixed tariff they don’t apply. These 49 days are a ‘switching period’, giving you time to find a new deal for when your current one expires.
Your energy supplier should get in touch in the last 42-49 days of your tariff to tell you that it’s coming to an end.
If you think you’ve been charged an exit fee incorrectly, read our advice on your rights on exit fees when switching energy supplier.
Energy companies under investigation
Besides the investigation opened today into British Gas, the energy regulator is currently looking into:
- E – sales and marketing practices, including its practices when its agents visit customers at home.
- Extra Energy – whether it broke rules on billing, customer services and complaints handling.
- Economy Energy – investigation into its marketing and telesales, after concerns were raised about how it recruits new customers.
- SSE – whether it treated customers fairly when switching them onto prepayment meters.
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