Today (Tuesday 20 May 2014), Ofgem, the energy regulator, has imposed a £750,000 fine on ScottishPower for failings when calculating the price differences for customers who opt for different payment methods. Under Ofgem rules, suppliers are allowed to offer different prices depending on whether customers choose to pay by monthly direct debit, quarterly direct debit, on receipt of bill, or by prepayment meter, but only if they can show why some payment methods carry a premium or warrant a discount. ScottishPower, it was found, failed to do so when it came to its standard credit and direct debit payment options.
This follows a £125,000 fine levied on npower yesterday (Monday 19 May 2014) for errors that the supplier made in reporting data relating to the government's Feed-in Tariff and Renewables Obligation Schemes. And it is also hot on the heels of last week's record £12 MILLION fine, which Ofgem meted out to fellow 'big six' supplier E.ON, after the company had been found guilty of large scale misselling.
Jeremy Cryer, energy spokesperson at Gocompare.com, said: "Misconduct by three of the UK's biggest energy companies, as highlighted by the regulator, is disappointing, and comes at a time when people's faith in energy suppliers is at critically low ebb. But it's important to note that in each case the company in question cooperated with the regulator, and these fines and public investigations will, hopefully, result in much better business practice in the future.
"With people's energy bills being so high at the moment, and energy switching already at a low level - our research shows that 54% haven't changed their supplier in the last three years* - we hope that news of these fines doesn't turn people off from the energy buying process altogether.
"Shopping around for energy is easier than ever before, with comparison websites enabling people to compare tariffs and switch to a better deal in a matter of minutes. And it appears people are coming round to the fact that they needn't limit their search to the tariffs on offer by the big six, with 71% of those who switched their energy tariffs over the last two months opting for a smaller provider.**
"All suppliers, large and small, are regulated by Ofgem, and as such consumers are protected in the same way no matter who they buy their energy from. So as long as you don't mind whose logo is on your energy bill, find the best deal for you and switch to it."
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Based on dual fuel, payment by monthly direct debit, averaged across all UK regions and based on an annual energy usage of 13,500kWh gas and 3,200kWh electricity (medium user). Correct as of 20/05/2014.
For more information about how to switch your gas and electricity, visit: www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/guide/.
Notes to editors
*On 16-17 December 2013, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,005 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.
**Based on customers who switched energy provider using Gocompare.com between 20 February 2014 and 1 May 2014.