Thursday, 4 February 2016

Age UK compromised by deal with E.ON


Three years ago I posted on twitter my concern about the Age UK energy tariff offered by E.ON to their customers.  I was then concerned that a charity representing the interests of older people was being used in a commercial deal by the energy provider.  I had myself signed up to the tariff. What exactly was the relationship? Was it misleading?  Little did I know then that this issue would become headline news today on the front page of The Sun.

Age UK have themselves berated the energy companies for overcharging customers. It seemed odd then that they would entangle themselves with a commercial deal from which they received commission from E.On for each customer signed up to the tariff with the Age UK branding. 

According to The Sun investigation the charity has received £6 million from E.On as a result of this commercial deal.  At best this financial deal compromises the charity's objective to represent the best interests of older people. Worse is that  The Sun investigation discovered that the Age UK tariff was not the best deal for many customers signed up to it, and they lost out as a result.  It is a sorry state of affairs for a charity. 

Many like me would have signed up to the tariff trusting it was the best for them because it carried the approval of Age UK.   This is the breach of trust.  

Finding the best deal is a tricky task at the best of times. It is full of pitfalls. The consumer needs to take account of their energy usage and 'shop around'.  Many pensioners do not do this. We tend to stick with the same provider. Understanding the plethora of tariffs isn't easy. I have never understood how there could be so many different prices for the same electricity delivered through the same cables. The truth is, as with telephone tariffs, it doesn't pay to stay with the same provider. Loyalty carries no weight in pricing. 

Age UK have issued a robust response to The Sun investigation. “We strongly reject the allegations and interpretation of figures in this article. Energy prices change all the time and we have always advised older people to look out for new good deals and we will continue to do so.”

It is an odd response.  They are right to point out that 'energy prices change all the time'.  They are right to advise us to 'look out for new good deals'.  But this is all the more reason why they should not themselves tie their charity brand to one of those deals. It implies it is better than others for most older people. It suggests they have approved it when they haven't. It is deceptive.  It compromises their charitable status.  They should stick to representing the interests of older people and not burn their fingers in dodgy commercial  deals with energy companies. 

Please sign the petition on change.com calling of E.On to reimburse customers out of pocket. 


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