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New Small Business being targeted by electricity scams

A recient report in the Daily Mail has reported how some rogue energy brokers are targeting new business and signing them up to long more expensive electricity contracts.  Business Energy Switch has been contacted by many small businessfor help after they have had a similar experience.  Please see below the full Daily Main Report.

Small firms tricked by electric switch

 

Start-ups and small businesses that have moved premises are being aggressively targeted by energy brokers who claim to be official meter readers.

The companies later discover that they have been switched to a new supplier without their knowledge or agreement and tied into a binding contract.

The brokers - who claim to be from a range of companies including the Meter Registration Service, Commercial Connections, Benjamin Dexter and Commercial Energy - contact small business owners soon after they have taken over new premises.

 

A source told Financial Mail the brokers either state or imply that they are officials who need to take a meter reading because the firm's meter is not registered and that as a result they are not in a contract with any supplier and will be paying a very high rate for their energy. Firms have been told they are paying up to 40 per cent above the going rate.

The broker will then ask for the company's details and say that they are authorised to find the best deal for small businesses. Despite claiming not to be selling anything - merely giving information about tariffs - the brokers then switch the firms to a new supplier without authorisation. 

A spokeswoman for the Utilities Intermediaries Association - a trade association for third-party energy intermediaries whose members have to abide by a voluntary code of practice - says: 'We are aware of the erroneous and misleading sales tactics being used by some brokers, who imply they are official meter readers and then tie customers unknowingly into contracts.

'Businesses must be aware that there is no such thing as an official meter registration body and no one should be using aggressive tactics to force you into an energy deal.'

The UIA website has consumer guidance including questions that firms should ask before signing any deal. See uia.org.uk. 

Rupert and Liz Jefferson opened fashion boutique Doodie Stark in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, in March. Rupert, 40, is a commercial portrait photographer. Liz, 42, has spent her working life in fashion, most recently with French Connection. 

When the couple moved in they signed up with existing supplier Electricity Plus. But then they received numerous calls from brokers claiming to be the official meter readers and saying they were supposed to find the Jeffersons the best deal. 

Rupert says: 'Days after moving into the new premises we were called by someone claiming to be from a firm called Commercial Connections who told me we were on an emergency tariff and their role was to read and register the meter. I was also told we were paying way over the odds and they could save us money by finding a better deal.' 

Rupert has since been called again by Commercial Connections, which is unrelated to reputable firms with the same name. He said its approach was pushy and aggressive. He has also been called by firms, including Meter Registrations and Benjamin Dexter-though he says that Dexter was not aggressive and 'accepted that I wanted to shop around'. 

Rupert feels it is essential that steps are taken to crack down on suspect tactics by some brokers. 'I know my way around the energy market a bit and know there is no such thing as an official meter registration service, but if I didn't I might well have succumbed to these tactics,' he says. 

Commercial Connect ions appears to have no website or business listing. 

A spokesman for Benjamin Dexter says: 'We operated as The Meter Registration Service and stopped in 2008 due to malicious and unfair sales practices by competitors. 

'We have a code of conduct and we do not use scare tactics such as emergency tariffs or claiming to be a government body. 

'We record all calls so we can investigate fully any complaints. We are aware of several businesses that target new firms and give misleading sales presentations. Business owners should be made aware of the situation.' 

Thomas Lowe, energy expert at Consumer Focus, which campaigns for a fairer deal for consumers and firms, says: 'There needs to be better protection.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1284313/Small-firms-tricked-electric-switch.html#comments