Consumers using comparison websites to find the best price for heating will be better able to compare deals to save money now that the OFT has taken action.
The OFT found that some websites offering to find consumers the best price for heating oil were not clear about whether they were price comparison sites or sites for ordering heating oil directly from a single supplier.
Their investigation found that
- WCF Fuels Limited, which runs the website fuelfighter.co.uk, claimed to make price comparisons but in fact only quoted prices for its own products and services. False customer testimonials were also used on the site.
- boilerjuice.co.uk, run by Boiler Juice Limited, whilst a price comparison website providing price quotations from GB Oils Limited as well as price quotations from other non-related heating oil distributors, was not transparent about its links to parent company DCC plc, which owns GB Oils Limited, the largest heating oil distributor in the UK.
Both companies have co-operated with the OFT and now made changes to their website to ensure their business practices are not misleading.
Clive Maxwell, Executive Director at the OFT said: “Our investigation has aimed to ensure that any relationships between businesses supplying heating oil and websites are transparent and that the number of prices that have been compared by the website is stated prominently.
“It is important that people can genuinely shop around and make informed decisions about which suppliers to use. The changes that we have secured mean that people buying domestic heating oil will be better able to compare deals on offer.’
Adam Scorer, Director of External Affairs at Consumer Focus said: “This is a welcome step by the Office of Fair Trading in a market where consumers believe they have been losing out. Over a million households use heating oil and last winter’s huge price spikes left many struggling to afford massive bills.
“With heating oil customers usually facing much higher heating bills than gas customers it is important that they are able to shop around easily to find the best deal around.
“We would urge anyone worried about the cost of heating oil to buy before winter kicks in to avoid paying peak prices.
People can also cut the price they pay by getting a discount through buying with a group of neighbours, getting several quotes to find the best price and finding out about grants and schemes which could make their homes more energy efficient.’
MoneyHighStreet comments: “Clearly this is a welcome move by the OFT. Consumers though need to take every step to save money on energy bills and part of this is getting the best energy deal but it is also about reducing your energy consumption where you can.
“For example, insulating your loft can help as can cavity wall insulation.
“Thinking about your appliances too is important, for example why boil a kettle if you are only making a single mug of coffee or why leave lights on in a room that you are not using? It all helps.”