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Consumers charged £200 to switch energy deals

Suppliers rolling customers onto costly contracts

Some fixed-rate energy contracts can cost up to £200 to get out of if you want to switch deals before the fixed-rate period ends.

Energy customers whose tariff is coming to an end are, in some cases, being ‘rolled over’ onto new fixed-rate contracts which carry penalty charges to get out of.

While the energy companies write to or email customers before they are rolled over, missing the notification could cost you hundreds of pounds.

You can find out more about the energy-saving measures that can help you cut your bills in our Environment & saving energy section, including our guides to cutting energy costs, installing an energy monitor and how to use less electricity.

Energy tariff lottery

In September we reported how a Which? energy tariffs investigation found a lack of transparency around better deals, lengthy contracts that lock in customers, unreasonable time lags between switching suppliers, and late notification of price changes mean that many consumers could be paying more than they need to for their energy.

Which? also found that some suppliers have a policy of ‘rolling over’ customers’ contracts if they don’t hear from the customer before the contract ends. This means consumers who’ve signed a contract to fix their prices for a year can end up either stuck with their supplier for another year or having to pay a hefty exit fee to get out of the contract.

Charges of up to £200

EDF’s Fixed Price 2015 tariff carries the highest penalty charge for switching suppliers, at £200 for dual fuel. Its shorter-term fixed-price tariffs have an early cancellation charge of £50 for dual fuel. It gives customers 30 days to switch from the new tariff without penalty.

Charges for cancelling fixed-price dual fuel tariffs from other suppliers are up to £100 for British Gas, up to £75 for Scottish and Southern Energy, and up to £50 for Scottish Power.

Neither Npower nor Eon will roll you onto a fixed-price tariff with cancellation charges.

Energy companies respond

Scottish Power says it writes twice to customers with deals about to end before the new rate starts. Both EDF and British Gas say customers liked the security of a fixed-price tariff.

A spokesman for British Gas says: ‘We write 30 days before maturity to give customers the chance to opt out of being rolled over. Most customers like to be moved on to another fixed-price contract, because they want the security of no sudden price rises.’

Lower your gas and electricity bills

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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