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Energy Advice Line welcomes British Gas penalties

The Energy Advice Line has applauded a decision by OFGEM to make British Gas pay £5.6m in penalties for unfairly blocking business energy users from switching suppliers.

In welcoming the move, Julian Morgan, managing director of the price comparison and switching service for energy users, said business energy customers had long struggled with problems associated with switching.

Earlier this month the energy regulator ruled that Britain’s biggest energy supplier had unfairly blocked business customers from switching to competitors. Nearly 6% of British Gas business account holders who had tried to switch suppliers between 2007 and 2012 had been queried because of outstanding debt or contractual issues.

“We are relieved on behalf of countless numbers of business energy users that their struggles to switch suppliers have finally been recognised by OFGEM,” Mr Morgan said.

“The ability to switch supplier quickly and easily is crucial for businesses because regularly moving to cheaper deals is really the only effective way to keep their energy bills down.

“However, for many years business energy users have been unfairly thwarted in their attempts to do this and have suffered financially as a result.

“As OFGEM has now confirmed, British Gas failed to give adequate notice to about 1,200 business customers that their tariff deals were about to expire, thus preventing them from having time to shop around before they were rolled on to more expensive standard tariffs.

“Many of these customers who were blocked from switching were small businesses who could I’ll afford to be stuck on onerous and expensive energy deals that were significantly more expensive than the cheapest available.

“It’s been a long time coming, but these penalties imposed on British Gas are very welcome indeed.

“Businesses were effectively denied the chance to move to a better deal at the end of the fixed-term contracts.”

Mr Morgan said many of the big suppliers continue to make it difficult for businesses to switch by making their tariffs overly-complicated.

“Business energy customers face a bewildering range of tariffs that make it almost impossible to compare prices like-for-like and make an informed choice about which supplier is offering the best deal,” Mr Morgan said.

“OFGEM has taken an important first step in fining British Gas for its behaviour, but it now needs to do more for businesses in the same way it is making it easier for domestic consumers to switch suppliers.

“The regulator must ensure that it is quick and simple for businesses to shop around, compare prices and switch suppliers accordingly.”

The Energy Advice Line is one of the UK’s leading price comparison and switching services for business and domestic energy customers. It is also an advocate for energy market reform and has campaigned for a better deal for energy users, including calling for a ban on cold calling and changes to regulations to make it easier for all consumers to switch suppliers.

The service is completely independent and free. Consumers can quickly and simply search the market for the best available energy deals from an extensive panel of small and large energy suppliers. The service also offers a free advice service for business energy customers throughout the to of their energy contracts.

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