Bewildered by range of energy tariffs on offer

Fly-tipping is nationwide. Here's Penn Lane, Wibtoft, which was closed for five hours after a fly-tipping incident. Photo by Rugby Borough Council

LETTER OF THE DAY: It’s difficult - and expensive - to get rid of rubbish

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I’ve been moved to take the advice of most consumer people to change my gas and electricity suppliers before prices go up yet again. I’ve found it practically impossible to discover the cheapest tariff. There is a bewildering range of options. Where can I get reliable information please?

JB (Internet)

A You’ve touched on a scandal that has been allowed to develop by the regulator since the utilities were first privatised in the 1990s.

We were promised that healthy competition would keep prices down. Instead we were presented with a bewildering array of tariffs which made sourcing the best deal without a degree in applied maths almost impossible.

Although not entirely reliable, there are many online price comparison sites that attempt to do most of the donkey work for you.

One of the best is MoneySupermarket.com. Their site has a good tool to compare prices from the top six energy suppliers, and find you the cheapest deal.

Perhaps the tops for accuracy and reliability is the switching tool provided by the Consumer’s Association, Which? ‘Which Switch’ winkles out the smaller suppliers, where some of the best deals are to be had. Go to which.co.uk/Switch.

Q Last year I bought a divan set from Simply Beds Ltd in Havant who have now gone bust. The product came with a five-year guarantee from Furmanac, the manufacturer. I notified the manufacturer of a defect with the divan via the store before it closed. They initially contacted me for more details, but on learning that Simply Beds had gone to the wall, they do not want to know. What are my rights please?

ET (Emsworth)

A The manufacturer’s guarantee amounts to a legally binding contract which is in addition to your statutory rights. You therefore have the right to make a legal claim against Furmanac to honour their promise to put right any defective workmanship within five years from the date of purchase.

I suggest you write to the company secretary at their trading address saying that under the Sale and Supply of Good to Consumers Regulations 2002 they are in breach of contract, and you will expect them to repair your divan at no cost to you in line with the guarantee promise, or you will seek appropriate advice about conformity.

If that doesn’t do the trick, please get back to me for further advice and information.

Q I’ve just had a reminder from BT to renew my contract with them for another year. I’m reluctant to do it as they’ve put up their line rental and call charges twice this year already and I’m thinking about going elsewhere. Can they hold me to an automatic renewal?

LP (Internet)

A As I write, the answer is yes.

However, the regulator Ofcom has signalled its intention to crackdown on automatic rollover clauses in telecom supplier contracts which will be declared illegal from January 1 next year.

I suggest you write to BT and say you are only prepared to renew your contract with them until the end of the year.