What’s in this guide?
Whenever you buy goods or hire services, you’re protected legally by what’s known as consumer rights or consumer protection laws.
Regardless of whether you’re getting your hair cut by a hairdresser or if you buy a light bulb from your local hardware shop, you should be able to expect a certain level of service or that your product will last a reasonable amount of time.
Usually, you’ll never have an issue with any of these products or services; however if or when you do, it’s comforting to know that you have individual rights.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about consumer rights, including what they are and how you are protected.
What are energy consumer rights?
Consumer rights are a kind of shield that protects you, the consumer, whenever you make a purchase.
This is so companies can’t take advantage of you, which is important when it comes to things such as energy because only six energy companies dominate 90% of the domestic market. In other words, your home.
Many customers don’t understand their consumer rights.
Which means that many customers aren’t making the most out of the rights that are available.
Being protected might include having compensation for a power cut, or a refund when something you bought breaks after a short period.
These are examples of your consumer rights.
Does Ofgem protect me?
When it comes to the energy industry, Ofgem acts as a certain protector of consumers by keeping an eye on energy companies, what they offer and how they treat their customers.
Ofgem is a government department that sometimes gives energy suppliers things like caps so they can’t charge their customers unreasonable amounts for their energy.
They enforce certain rules and regulations that are legally binding, so when a supplier is suspected of breaking any of these laws, they are then investigated by Ofgem.
If it turns out that they have been breaking any of these rules, the company will have a fine.
In extreme cases, they might be told to stop taking on new customers, or its license could be revoked.
However, it’s important to note that Ofgem can’t investigate what they aren’t aware of, which is why it’s essential that you know your rights.
Retail market review
A survey showed that 70% of consumers were overpaying for their energy.
That’s a worryingly high number.
Ofgem stepped in with their retail market review, which put in place different initiatives to make it easier for you understand your energy bills.
For instance, the personal projection you may have seen on your bill ensures that you can see an estimate of your bill for the next 12 months.
You can use this number, and compare it against offers from other energy suppliers.
Plus, they launched a campaign to show you how easy it is to switch. Understandably, many years ago switching was a complicated and stressful process, which put many people off the idea of switching energy suppliers.
According to some reports, households across the UK could save millions in total by switching energy suppliers.
What are my rights when being sold an energy plan?
There are very strict rules when it comes to the selling of energy plans.
For instance, you are supposed to be protected regardless of whether you signed up at your home, your workplace or your friend’s house.
The person selling you the energy plan has to give you all of the information that you will need.
This includes the total amount you have to pay, how that amount is figured out and how you are going to pay.
The seller also has to tell you when your contract ends and if you’ll have to pay any exit fees.
You can also have a 14 day cooling off period, so you can cancel your switch within two weeks without having to pay any exit fees.
So what constitutes as being mis-sold an energy plan? If any of these things happen you can complain:
- An energy supplier switches you without your knowledge or your permission.
- If your new supplier was misleading with their prices.
- You aren’t told about your rights in which you can cancel.
- Your new energy company didn’t tell you the cost of your energy.
There is usually a very specific route to go down when complaining.
First, you need to speak to your energy supplier. On their website you will be able to find a contact number, there is also usually a different number specifically for submitting complaints.
If that doesn’t work, you need to move onto other third parties. Check out the EnergySeek guide to lodging complaints here.
Can I change my mind when switching energy supplier?
Yes. When you switch energy suppliers, you will be given a 14 day cooling off period.
This is when you can think about your choice and avoid buyers remorse by being able to cancel your switch without incurring any fees.
Will my energy supplier be able to increase my prices?
When you are on a fixed rate tariff, it means that your unit rate per kWh is fixed. So, although your monthly bill might be more or less depending on how much energy you use, your actual unit rate won’t change.
On the other hand, when you are on a variable rate tariff, it means that your energy prices will increase and decrease with the open market.
Usually, current events, politics or the time of the year affects these costs.
Can I challenge a direct debit increase?
Yes, and you should always challenge or question something on your bill that you’re unsure about.
You can ask your supplier why they increased your bill, which could be because of something as simple as the fact you used more energy, or it could be a mistake.
In this instance, you should immediately ensure that you take a meter reading so you can prove how much energy you’ve used.
Do I have to have one?
No. Even if your energy company wants you to have a smart meter, you can refuse it.
Make sure that your decision is based on whether it’s best for you or not. Check out this guide here to find out what a smart meter could do for you.
Are you ready to switch energy suppliers?
Did you know that you could be saving over £200 annually on your energy bills every year?