Allegations that British Gas has been misleading customers over switching fees has prompted an investigation by Ofgem, the energy regulatory body. The allegation states that British Gas has been misleading customers over fees payable when switching providers.
Ofgem stands for the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, it’s a non-ministerial government department and functions as the government regulator for the electricity and natural gas markets.
Customers planning to switch to another provider, before the end of a fixed-term agreement, are able to do so without any charge – so long as this happens 49 days before the end of the deal. British Gas, however, has allegedly been telling some of its customer that they will have to pay an early termination fee, even if they are within the grace period stated in their agreement.
MoneySavingExpert had passed on the complaints to Ofgem after receiving them by its users. The popular website stated that it had been receiving complaints, regarding British Gas and switching fees, by some British Gas customers saying they had been billed up to £60 when they wanted to switch, despite being inside the 49 day period.
Without giving any further comment, British Gas has said that it would co-operate and work with the inquiry. As yet, it is unclear whether or not anyone has paid the switching fee.
In addition to this, Ofgem have also said they are looking at whether or not British Gas has been following the rules with regards to telling customers that any fixed deals they are on are reaching the end of the agreement period. Ofgem has also stated that opening an investigation carries no implication that they had discovered any issues of non-compliance.
Similar complaints have been made about Npower and E.ON at the end of 2016 according to MoneySavingExpert. Ofgem has confirmed that it is speaking with both of these other companies, but have said that neither Npower nor E.ON are a part of the investigation into British Gas.
Martin Lewis, founder of the website MoneySavingExpert, has welcomed reports of the investigation in to British Gas. Mr Lewis has stated that, in his opinion, the rules are straightforward and easy to understand. Customers should never be charged an exit fee if the switchover is due to happen before the final 49 days of the term.
British Gas is not the only supplier to come under the Ofgem spotlight. They and Npower have both said, in their respective official literature, that exit charges would be applied. This is at the best, says Mr Lewis, careless in customer treatment and at worse outright bullying.
It is unlikely that anything further about the investigation in to British Gas will be known until the investigation is actually concluded. Once it is and the investigation into Npower and E.ON is also brought to a close, we may at the very least see an amendment of the official literature that Martin has mentioned.