With all the scandal about the misselling of PPI, another major case of misselling and misbilling has gone largely unnoticed. Energy companies, often blamed for putting up the cost of electric and gas, are ripping us off in another way too. Their agents have been misselling their products for years, often without people realising they had power to do something about it and get compensation. Others have been deliberately misbilling in order to get a sale or make money on interest.
Ordinary customers have major powers to take on the energy giants however. Customers have rights that the energy companies have to listen to, and if they don't you can take them to the Energy Ombudsman who can award up to £5000 in compensation. Many of these powers are completely new, but you'd be surprised at how effective taking action can be.
With all forms of energy misselling or misbilling the process to make a complaint and get compensation is the same. First you need to complain to the energy supplier. Give them a total of eight weeks [just under two months] to correct the issue and, if appropriate, offer compensation. If after this time you're not happy then make a complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
The Energy Ombudsman technically can only look at complaints made within nine months of you realising there was a problem. However if the problem started longer than this ago, but you only realised more recently, then you may still be able to use them to make a complaint. Even if the issue is from longer ago, you could still try complaining to the energy company.
The Energy Ombudsman is great with individual complaints, but they also have a wider role of taking on energy companies where they systematically did things wrong. For instance they fined Scottish and Southern Energy £10.5 million for misselling between October 2009 and September 2012. This means that anyone who was signed up to their policies by a salesperson in this time could now be eligible to a refund.
There's many ways that energy companies missold their supplies - so many that it would be impossible to cover them all. Here are a selection of the worst practices and some idea of the compensation you could get by complaining.
Slamming is where a salesperson signs you up to something without your consent or knowledge. It's a common tactic among dodgy salespeople, especially ones working on commission who aren't employed by the energy companies directly. Some have been known to forge signatures - this is a criminal offence and entitles you to £250 in compensation. Others trick you into signing, asking you to sign to prove they had visited your property. If this happens then you need to make a complaint to both your existing and the new fraudulent supplier to get your supply moved back. You are under no obligation to pay anything to the supplier who has committed fraud.
While cancellation fees are perfectly legal, you have to be told about them before you enter into a contract. If a salesperson forgot to tell you about any cancellation fees - which can often be as high as £50 for each of electric and gas - they you could be entitled to compensation. Make a complaint to your energy supplier.
Lowering direct debits but not charges:
Another common tactic has been to lower direct debits than you are paying, but not tell you about the charges of the new supplier. This gives the perception that you are paying less, but often you'll actually just be getting a larger bill that you'll have to pay off later. Salespeople have an obligation to give you an estimate of how much you'll pay compared with what you are currently paying - if you haven't received this you could receive compensation.
In most cases if you feel the energy company has done something wrong then you're probably right. Do something about it: contact them, and if in eight weeks they haven't resolved it go to the Energy Ombudsman. You've got nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.
… written by David James from SameDayLoans.org.uk. They are a company offering payday loans funded within an hour. You can contact David on Twitter.