Written by: Cally Worden
There has been a lot of hoo-haa in the press recently about energy mis-selling. Many people have been paying more than they should as a result. If you are one who has been mis-sold an energy contract or have been landed with a grossly inflated energy bill without knowing why, then you may be able to claim back your cash. Here’s how.
This energy-industry watchdog is your new best friend. It is their job to keep and eye on the energy companies and help you, the consumer, exercise your rights.
There is no official cut-off point to which claims for refund of overpayments can be back-dated, but a claim from, say, 10 years ago is probably going to get rejected. Bills from up to two or three years ago are likely to receive a more favourable response, and the Ombudsman can officially intervene on complaints within nine months after you first realised there was a problem.
How to Go About It
If you think you have been mis-sold a contract and have been paying too much, then dig out your bills and all other associate documents and contact your energy supplier directly first. If you have not received a satisfactory response within eight weeks, then contact your new best friend the Ombudsman with all your details and they will pick up the chase on your behalf.
How do you know if you’ve been mis-sold an energy contract? The energy companies employed many tactics for getting you to switch to their services. The most common ones included:
Did you Switch?
Many unsuspecting customers fell afoul of ‘Slamming’, where doorstep sellers requested a signature to a) prove they had given you their pitch, or b) saying it was the only way they could share a quote with you. In reality, your signature committed you to a change, for which you may have ended up paying more than you needed to. This is classic mis-selling, and if you have suffered financially as a result you can claim back your overpayments, and may even receive compensation.
The Direct Debit Scam
Some companies simply lowered you monthly direct debit in an effort to tempt you away from your old supplier. In reality you may have paid more when the end of cycle reconciliation saw you presented with a bill for the shortfall. Check your old bills for a comparison, and see if your price per kWh or unit of gas actually increased with your new supplier, despite the direct debit reduction.
If you were encouraged to switch suppliers by sellers who claimed that they were recommended by OfGem, or another respected name, then you are entitled to cancel your contract and may be able to claim damages if you have suffered as a result of the switch. Companies are not allowed to use false statements to entice you into a contract.
Other Mis-Selling Techniques
There are many other ways in which energy companies may have mis-sold energy to you. If you suspect you may have been subject to any of the following, then you may have a valid claim for compensation:
- Switching to Eon with a Sale Representative in 2010 to 2013
- Switching to Scottish Power with a Sale Representative in 2009 to 2012
- Switching to Scottish and Southern Energy with a Sale Representative in 2009 to 2012
In all three cases these companies have been found to have mis-sold contracts on a mass scale, and many unsuspecting customers have been paying more as a result. Claims within these boundaries are generally viewed favourably.
Other instances that may result in valid claims include instances where there were:
- Tariffs that weren’t properly explained to you
- A lack of provision of information about cancellation fees
- Failure to disclose to you how much you would be paying on a new tariff
- A lack of information on cooling-off and early cancellation rights
Finally – Don’t be Afraid to Switch
Many people have been caught out by over-egged sales pitches, often from doorstep sellers. This type of selling has now ceased from the main six suppliers, but smaller companies still try it on. There are savings to be made by switching, but the safest way to find out if you can save money is to research the market online, and use comparison sites for the market in your area. Once you have decided to switch, keep a close eye on all bills for a few months to make sure you have not been subject to unexpected or unsolicited charges.