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Consumers urged to shop around after British Gas forced to compensate customers
British Gas's mis-selling of energy deals to thousands of customers underlined how important it was for consumers to seek independent advice about their energy supplies, according to the Energy Advice Line.
Julian Morgan, managing director of the UK's leading price comparison, switching and advice service for energy users, also welcomed OFGEM's ruling that the Big Six supplier compensate 4,300 customers by an average £130 each.
"Consumers will be relieved that OFGEM is finally coming down hard on the unscrupulous sales tactics adopted by some of the Big Six suppliers," Mr Morgan said.
"OFGEM has found that British Gas staff did not make accurate comparisons between suppliers' deals, and made overblown claims about savings for switching.
"It's no surprise that consumers have lost confidence in the energy market generally, and the Big Six suppliers in particular.
"It's right that British Gas has been made to compensate customers who are out of pocket as a result of this mis-selling, and I hope OFGEM decides to take a zero tolerance approach to suppliers who are anything other than honest about their prices."
The energy regulator has ruled that British Gas must pay £566,000 in compensation to customers who signed up to British Gas and Sainsbury's Energy between 2011 and 2013. A further £434,000 will be paid into the same compensation fund as part of the penalty.
The ruling is the latest episode of mis-selling to hit the energy industry. In May, e·on agreed to a record £12 million penalty for phone and doorstep mis-selling, in addition to compensation payments of between £3m and £8m.
The regulator has also referred energy suppliers to the Compensation and Markets Authority to investigate whether customers are receiving a fair deal.
"It's vital for all consumers to be shrewd when it comes to energy bills and that means comparing prices and shopping around," Mr Morgan said.
"Energy prices are ever-changing and suppliers are constantly battling to take customers away from each other. Savvy customers can use that to their advantage and save money.
"But it's essential to seek independent advice, whether you're a householder or a business energy user. As the British Gas case shows, all is not necessarily what it seems, particularly if you decide to accept a deal offered by someone who approaches you unsolicited.
"Our advice is to check the market regularly, and use a reputable and independent service like the Energy Advice Line so that you can be confident the advice you get is impartial. Don't ever deal with cold callers or sale people who approach you out of the blue.
"Some domestic customers switch supplier as often as every 6 months in order to stay on the cheapest deal. Those millions of customers who have never changed supplier could possibly save as much as £300 each year."
The Energy Advice Line is the UK's leading impartial comparison, switching and advice service for businesses and householders. It actively campaigns for reform of the UK's energy market to boost competition, get consumers a better deal from suppliers and lower energy prices.
The Energy Advice Line's price comparison and switching service is free and completely impartial. Consumers can obtain energy quotes with a few computer strokes based on a diverse panel of energy suppliers including the major players and smaller independent utility companies.
For further information visit Energy Advice Line