The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has moved to protect consumers not connected to mainstream gas against rogue firms.

The watchdog found some online sellers of heating oil are misleading customers by not being clear about whether they are price comparison sites or sites for ordering from a specific supplier. They have been ordered to change their websites

Key Points

  • OFT takes action against misleading heating oil sites
  • Three companies have changed their websites
  • Consumers need to be able to fairly compare prices

Such misleading information may result in users thinking they are buying the cheapest-possible oil when in fact they could be paying more than necessary.

As heating oil customers usually face higher bills than gas customers, it's important they find the best deals.

Around four million households, mainly in the countryside, are not connected to the mains gas grid, so rely on heating oil to keep warm.

A large concentration live in Devon, Cornwall, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire.

What was found?

  • WCF Fuels Ltd, which operates the website, claimed to make price comparisons but only quoted prices for its own products and services. It also used false customer testimonials on the site.

  • Price comparison site, operated by Boiler Juice Ltd, provided price quotations from GB Oils Ltd without making it clear that Boiler Juice's parent company is DCC Plc, which owns GB Oils Ltd, the largest heating oil distributor in the UK.

  • The style of Johnston Oils Ltd's website was found to potentially mislead consumers into thinking it was a price comparison site (although it never stated it was a price comparison site).

All of the companies above have made the relevant changes to ensure their websites no longer mislead or confuse consumers.

WCF Fuels Ltd and Boiler Juice Ltd have also signed undertakings to ensure consumers aren't misled in future.

Clive Maxwell, executive director at the OFT, says: "The changes mean people buying domestic heating oil will be better able to compare deals on offer."

Adam Scorer, director of external affairs at Consumer Focus, says: "We would urge anyone worried about the cost of heating oil to buy before winter kicks in to avoid paying peak prices."