Sunday, 7 February 2016

Come.ON E.ON now do the right thing

A victory of sorts, or at least a skirmish won. With pressure mounting as a result of The Sun investigation and growing public outrage, E.ON UK has announced that it will withdraw its misleading Age UK energy tariff and replace it with a better deal for older people. We will see the replacement this week. This is good news. But it isn't sufficient.

E.ON's move is an acknowledgement of the misleading nature of the Age UK tariff.  They are bowing to pressure, and they know it is indefensible.  Defending the indefensible is always a bad place to be. We need to maintain pressure for them to refund those pensioners who had a bad deal.

Age UK initially denied it was a bad deal, saying that fuel prices can go up or down, and that they advise people to search around for the best deals. But this is too simple.  it is easy enough to say consumers should 'shop around', but if that was the best thing for Age UK clients to do, then why not simply give them the best advice on how to do it.  Why introduce a tariff from which Age UK would benefit financially? It compromised their integrity and misled older people they were supposed to represent.

Many older people are not in a good position to search for the best deals. Many are not online. A survey by the Oxford Internet Institute found that the numbers of older people online has remained relatively static, with between 25% and 35% using the internet. But even if they have access to the internet,  it isn't easy to find the best deals. 

Tariffs are complicated. This is why they would have welcomed Age UK looking after their interests. They trusted that Age UK would monitor the rates and be actively engaged on their behalf. The truth is their faith was misplaced.

Age UK involvement had a clear objective, and that was to raise money for Age UK. At best there were conflicting objectives - the objective of protecting the interests of older people and that of raising money for the charity were in conflict. It was an ethically compromised scheme.

Older people who signed up to the Age UK tariff trusted that there would have been a duty of care for Age UK to look after their interests. This is why many were attracted to it.  When I first signed up to the tariff I received a reassuring welcome package from Age UK with tips on how to stay warm.

They now find that our trust was misplaced, and we have effectively been overcharged. This is why E.ON should now put this right by arranging to refund those Age UK E.On customers who are out of pocket from buying into the Age UK brand.

Latest figures show there are 1.14 million older people in England living in fuel poverty there are some 31,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales last winter.

Fuel poverty kills.  This is why it is incumbent on energy companies to ensure older people are able to heat their homes.  This is a social responsibility.  It goes beyond profit and loss.  Each older person paying over the odds for their energy is someone baring the burden of cheaper tariffs for others. That is unfair. 

Age UK warn that there has been little progress on tackling fuel poverty.  That is the reality. This is more reason why Age UK should not compromise its own position by selling a given tariff and receiving commission from it.  It must work with the energy companies to produce economic justice for older people.  

The energy companies should also have a social obligation to ensure older people are on the best deals.  Keeping sufficiently and safely warm is not a luxury. It is a necessity.  It shouldn't be decided by a tariff lottery. We can do better than that. We must stop this retail energy casino. It is gambling with the lives of vulnerable people. 

E.ON should now do the decent thing and make a refund. Please sign the petition and share it with others. 




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