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Energy companies give out ‘lucky dip’ prices

British Gas and Eon get energy prices wrong

Quote from an energy sales person

Energy companies are still struggling to give out correct energy prices over the phone, according to the latest Which? energy investigation.

When we rang up British Gas to get a quote for its cheapest deal, it gave us a range of inconsistent prices. The energy giant gave us one quote that was £72 more expensive and one that was £46 cheaper than it should have been. Meanwhile, Eon gave us one quote that was £34 more expensive and one that was £50 cheaper than it should have been.  

We also spoke to two energy salespeople who attempted to manually calculate our quote when their computers weren’t working. The complicated arithmetic left them confused (see image, right) and we believe this shows that energy tariffs are just too complicated. 

On the plus side, we were offered the cheapest tariff in 93% of the calls we made. The first time we investigated energy sales over the phone in August 2011 we were offered the cheapest deal in just 68% of the calls.

If you want to find out which energy tariffs are cheapest for your home – and get accurate price quotes – compare gas and electricity prices using our independent energy comparison site, Which? Switch. 

Energy market isn’t working 

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘It’s good that the information given by energy company salespeople has once again improved, which reflects the work already done to make tariffs simpler, but we’ve found that some are still struggling to provide customers with the correct prices for their cheapest tariffs.

‘Our research shows that energy telesales staff can be just as confused by the tariffs and pricing on offer as their customers, which means people have less chance of finding the best deal.

‘As it stands the energy market just isn’t working well enough. If consumers are to be confident of getting a fair deal the government must go further with their proposed reforms and require all suppliers to use single unit prices for their tariffs, so that people can spot the cheapest deal at a glance.’

Energy companies respond

When we quizzed British Gas about our findings, it said: ‘We expect our inbound customer services agents to provide a full and comprehensive sales experience that customers can trust. While Which?’s research indicates that we may not have got it absolutely right on every call, you have our assurances that we will use your research to drive further process improvements where necessary.’

Eon told us: ‘The quote will be impacted by factors such as payment method, metering type etc and is automatically generated by our system. This information is shown to the customer on their welcome pack. The customer can review this to ensure that the correct information has been used.’

How we investigated

For our third investigation in to the way energy companies sell deals over the phone, we made 12 phone calls to each of the six major energy companies (British Gas, Eon, EDF, Npower, Scottish Power and Southern Electric) over the course of a week in November. 

We gave the same usage figures in every call and asked for a quote for their cheapest deal. We then compared the prices we received with quotes we got from independent price comparison website Which? Switch. You can see the full results of our lucky dip investigation – including scores for each company and details of how some suppliers have improved since our last investigation – in our guide to energy sales

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