The energy regulator, Ofgem, is bringing in changes to make it easier, clearer and fairer for you to get the best deal when you buy electricity and gas. From 26 August 2013 suppliers must:
- carry out actions in a fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner
- give information which is complete, accurate, not misleading and in plain language. The important information must be made the most obvious
- make sure it’s easy for you to contact them, and act promptly and courteously to put things right when a mistake is made.
Again, stating the obvious. If the energy companies have failed to observe these rules (which appear to be nothing more than good business practice) in the past and the fact that Ofgem has seen fit to act suggests that this may be the case it is an indictment of some if not all the companies involved. Whether the service provided by the energy supply companies would be better for consumers if the industry was renationalised is hotly debated. The fact that 70% of respondents in a recent BBC survey favoured renationalisation is at least an indication of the dissatisfaction with the service currently provided.
The changes being proposed by Ofgem will clearly improve the situation. From 22 October 2013:
- suppliers won’t be allowed to increase prices or make other changes to fixed rate tariffs (except for tracker tariffs where rates vary or structured price increases that have been set out in advance)
- suppliers won’t be able to roll you onto a fixed term contract without your consent
- if you’re on a fixed term tariff, you’ll get 42-49 days before the end of the tariff to decide if you want to stay with the supplier or switch.
From 31 December 2013 suppliers will offer no more than four core tariffs for you to choose from when buying gas and no more than four when buying electricity. Discounts will still be possible if you buy online or have a dual fuel account.
By 30 June 2014, if you’re still on a tariff that’s no longer available, you must be transferred to the cheapest main tariff
From 31 March 2014, suppliers will have to give you personalised information about the cheapest tariff for you. This must be on every bill you get.