Outfox the Market U-turns on direct debit changes
Energy firm Outfox the Market is cancelling its new seasonal direct debit policy following a raft of complaints over the planned move which would have seen most customers pay 40% more during the winter months.
The small supplier has informed customers who joined it before 21 November that it will now return to fixed monthly direct debits, meaning they should pay the same each month – providing their usage doesn't change massively.
The seasonal direct debit policy – initially announced in November – would have seen all its customers pay on average 40% more each month between October and March, and 40% less between April and September. The change would have added about £33/month to the average household's monthly direct debit payment this winter.
In an email to customers, Outfox the Market also apologised for its customer service in recent months. It said "as a consequence of the initial change" to its direct debit policy there had been "a negative influence on our standard of service".
The direct debit U-turn comes after:
- Monthly direct debits were hiked by an average of 40% over the winter period.
- Four separate price hikes announced in the last six months.
- Widespread anger from customers, with many struggling to get in contact with the supplier, having switches away from it blocked, and cancelled direct debits being automatically reinstated without permission. The reaction prompted us to warn MoneySavers to think carefully about switching to the supplier.
If you're with Outfox the Market, most can switch now without paying any exit fees. Use our free Cheap Energy Club to see how much you can save.
How will my direct debit change?
If you were with Outfox the Market before 21 November your direct debit will revert back to a fixed amount from February.
Outfox the Market has told us that if you're on its 'Zapp' or 'Wham' variable tariffs, or its 'Whack' 18-month fixed tariff, you should go back to paying the same amount each month.
If you're on its variable 'Pow' tariff, which was introduced when it increased prices on 21 November, or the variable 'Blast' tariff from its hike on 29 November, you'll continue to pay higher direct debits in winter, with lower payments in the summer.
On 1 January, the average bill for a typical user on all these variable tariffs jumped by £142/year, to a typical £1,129.
If you're not sure which tariff you're on, Outfox the Market should identify it on your bill or in your online account.
How to challenge direct debits
Outfox the Market has said it will write to inform you of your revised direct debit by Tuesday 15 January, which you'll start paying from February on your normal payment date.
If you haven't heard from it by then, or you're a new customer and think the seasonal direct debit is unfair, you're free to challenge it. Suppliers are required by regulator Ofgem to set "fair and reasonable" direct debits – see our Energy Direct Debits guide for more.
If you still disagree with the amounts after the change, you can lodge an official complaint – see How to complain about your energy provider for more.
Still unhappy? Most can ditch and switch penalty-free
Most Outfox the Market customers are on variable tariffs with no exit fees. So if you're unhappy with the firm, do a full comparison on Cheap Energy Club to see if you can find a better deal – and if so, switch away penalty-free.
If you're one of the small number of Outfox the Market customers on a fixed deal, the supplier says exit fees will now apply if you switch – unless you're in the last 49 days of your contract, as providers aren't allowed to charge the fees in this period.
Last month, Outfox the Market said it would waive exit fees for these customers due to the change to direct debit policy. However, now it's reverted to fixed direct debits, it says exit fees WILL once again apply to customers wanting to leave its fixed 'Whack' tariff early.
What does Outfox the Market say?
In its email to customers, Outfox the Market chief executive Keith Bastian said: "The last few weeks have been challenging for our valued customers, and I would like to thank you for your patience and understanding.
"The changes we have introduced to our direct debit policy, where customers pay a higher rate during the winter to match increased consumption, followed by lower payments in the warmer months, is a sustainable solution to providing cheaper energy prices. I firmly believe that this will soon be standard practice for companies aiming to help customers save on their energy costs.
"However, I fully accept that many of our customers do not accept that this is the right thing for them."