Ovo could 'fine' energy customers for calling or tweeting it
Energy supplier Ovo is set to change its current online discount scheme which could see customers who call or tweet it hit with higher bills.
Ovo has already announced plans to scrap its online discount for customers on its standard variable tariff, and is now altering the terms of the discount for the majority of its 660,000 customers – those on fixed deals who pay by direct debit.
The discount is worth £60/yr for customers with both gas and electricity – £30/yr if you only have one – who manage their accounts via Ovo's online platform.
This is to be replaced from Monday 1 October by a new 'self-serve reward'. Although the new scheme is still worth the same £60 over a year, Ovo has tightened the terms and conditions meaning ANY form of contact outside of its app or via its website – including phone, email or social media – could result in customers losing out by up to £15 a quarter, though it won't penalise you in an emergency or when making a complaint.
For those customers used to receiving the current discount, Ovo is in effect implementing a 'fine' of higher energy bills should they need – or choose – to contact it if they get stuck with any of its self-serve options. If you're unhappy with the changes, you can escape without paying its usual exit fees, provided you do so within 30 days of receiving email notification.
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I'm an Ovo Energy customer – what exactly is changing?
You're affected if you pay by direct debit and are on one of Ovo's fixed rate, all online tariffs, which it tells us the majority of customers are.
The outgoing Online Discount offers a £30/yr bill credit per fuel (gas or electricity) for customers, provided they manage their account online and meet the following rules:
- Receive all communications via email or via Ovo's online platform or app.
- Provide meter readings at least once every three months.
- Manage requests such as direct debits, payments and refunds online.
Though all of the above still stands for the new self-serve reward, Ovo has tweaked its terms and conditions to also include the following:
- Pay your direct debit on time and at least the recommended amount.
- Self-serve only – "use all online tools available to manage your account instead of contacting us (by any means, including phone, email or social media), unless you want to make a complaint or you have an emergency."
The new reward is applied as a credit four times a year, provided all the above are met within that three-month period. If dual fuel customers break any of the rules – even by calling Ovo and asking a question – they could miss out on a £15 discount each quarter, and thus be hit with a higher energy bill.
When asked how they would manage this, Ovo told us it would use "fair discretion" on whether customers would forfeit the discount, saying it would direct customers to the "right channels" – such as its forum and online help pages – if they contacted it.
How can I leave penalty-free?
We've been contacted by Ovo customers expressing their concern at being left high and dry if they get stuck or accidentally break the rules.
Provided you already receive the discount, you are able to leave penalty-free. There are usually exit fees with Ovo's fixed tariffs, but it won't charge them if you don't agree with the changes and want to switch – though you've only 30 days to do so from receiving the email notification it is currently sending to all affected customers.
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What does Ovo say?
Ovo told us the new scheme would not 'fine' customers for making contact, instead 'rewarding' them for managing their account online, supplying regular meter reads and paying via direct debit.
It will check at the end of every calendar quarter and if customers qualify – including not contacting it in any way – it will credit £7.50 per fuel to the customer's account.
It said it will give "fair discretion" at all times and, despite its new terms to the contrary, told us its care team is not just restricted to complaints or emergencies but in cases where customers are unable to self-serve, where the functionality doesn't work or is not working, telling us "it's OK [in those scenarios] to call or contact us and they will still receive the reward".
A spokesperson added: "While we hope that customers like the new self service reward, customers are free to switch to another supplier in the next 30 days. If they do they won't be charged any exit fees, and will continue to earn the Online Discount until they move to the new supplier."
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