RENTERS: Record all your readings
Tenants have the right – in the main – to choose their energy company and get the deal that best suits them. But not all know this and the process, superficially simple, can be riddled with pitfalls.
Edinburgh resident Kyra fell foul of most of them when in March she followed Eon’s instructions to get the meter serial numbers in her new home so they could trace the property and activate the transfer.
But these were difficult to see so Kyra asked the flat’s then current supplier Spark Energy for them, explaining she wanted to switch. “But instead of giving them, they asked for my name, then went ahead and set up an account for me,” she told Crusader.
“Since then I have tried multiple times to explain I didn’t want this. I sent the meter readings they asked for as well which are different and lower to the ones on the account they sent me and my tariff has been raised twice in the meantime while I’ve been ignored.”
Kyra for her part declined to pay the bills she received, which by June totalled £500.84.
“I’d received a much cheaper quote from Eon, so didn’t want to settle this and become a customer on a higher tariff,” she said. “But neither was I avoiding paying, I just wanted it to be fair.”
++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer champion Maisha Frost on firstname.lastname@example.org ++
But while understandable that also had terrible consequences as officially it marked Kyra down as a debtor which not only ruled out any transfer until that issue was settled but also caused her to get a relentless stream of calls – sometimes six a day – seeking to know when she would pay up.
By September her bill climbed to almost £1,000 and fearing too for her credit record she called Crusader.
We explained the sorry chain of events to Spark.
It put a hold on the account while it investigated and now a happy outcome has been achieved.
Control all the household systems from the one place
She has accepted Spark’s offer to reduce her bill to £500 which includes a goodwill gesture.
When thanking Crusader for its help, she added “This is now in line with what I would have paid had I been with Eon.”
Spark Energy responded: “We’re focused on providing an excellent energy service to home movers across the country and it’s disappointing to note that we have fallen short on this occasion.
“Our customers are fully entitled to switch supplier and this is always advertised in our communications. Kyra’s customer journey was far from our usual standards and we’ve apologised to her that it took so long to bring her account up-to-date.”
What NEW TENANTS must know about their energy suppliers
As well as tenants’ rights to choose a supplier or have a smart meter if they are directly responsible for paying the energy bills, their tenancy agreements should detail who is responsible for payments.
Consumer protection law states if someone is renting a property and is directly responsible for paying the gas and/or electricity bills, they have the right to choose their own energy supplier and if they want a smart meter installed. The landlord or letting agent should not unreasonably prevent this.
Tenants must know who’s responsible for paying the energy bills
If someone is switched against their will, they should complaint to either the new or previous supplier.
They can then take this to the Energy Ombudsman (www.ombudsman-services.org) not resolved within eight weeks.
A landlord has the right to choose the energy supplier only when they are directly responsible for paying for the gas or electricity.
This might include situations where when the landlord:
- pays the energy supplier directly and reclaims the money from you as the tenant.
- incorporates the cost of energy within the accommodation charges.
- assumes responsibility for the supply between tenancies.
Tenancy agreements should detail if the tenant/s or the landlord are responsible for paying for the gas or electricity.
A handheld smart meter
Watch out for ‘default supplier clause’ regulator Ofgem warns:
There may be some circumstances when a letting agent or landlord has a preferred supplier which is set as the default supplier as part of the tenancy agreement.
This is known as a ‘default supplier clause’.
If you notice a default supplier clause before you sign a tenancy agreement, talk with your landlord or letting agent to see if you can renegotiate this clause.
If following this conversation you cannot change the clause, you are still entitled to switch supplier if you are responsible for paying the energy bills.
Check if your landlord or letting agent notifies you of any tie-ins with specific suppliers.
They must do this if it applies and they should give you details at the outset of applicable tariffs and charging details.
For more guidance see www.ofgem.gov.uk