Energy prices have been increasing markedly in recent months with some suppliers raising prices by as much as 20%. One of the smaller suppliers, Outfox the Market, is no exception to this and judging by the appalling way it has dealt with these increases, could it be that Outfox the Market soon becomes the next energy minnow to go out of business and end up firmly out of the market?
As with other suppliers, Outfox the Market decided to introduce using seasonal direct debits rather than a fixed monthly amount throughout the year. This was in an effort to smooth out payments over the year with your Direct Debit increasing in winter and decreasing in summer. The theory being you shouldn’t have large negative or positive energy balances. All very well and makes sense with regards to normal usage through different seasons but the way it has been introduced and explained, or rather not explained, has led to numerous complaints. Outfox the Market is a notable example of a provider guilty of very poor communication and confusing information. As a result of numerous complaints regarding how this was handled, the company decided to reverse the decision and revert back to fixed monthly Direct Debits. This has only added to the confusion with customers receiving multiple confusing Direct Debit advice emails. Nine smaller suppliers have gone under in the last 12 months due to poor management, growing competition and rising wholesale energy prices. Will Outfox the Market be next?
Outfox the Market kept their unit energy cost low for longer than many other suppliers but then introduced price rises over several months during the highest usage period for customers. In addition they changed from fixed direct debit payments to seasonal direct debit payments. The combination of these changes resulted in many customers seeing their monthly energy charges rise by a huge amount. The company didn’t help matters by sending out confusing and often misleading payment information. The company were inundated with queries, concerns and complaints from their customers. This led to long phone waits, unanswered emails and staff unable to answer why payments had been altered the way they were. The company also sent out direct debit mandate changes BEFORE explaining how the new charges for both the seasonal element and the price increases were calculated.
In addition there was more than one price increase, which resulted in more confusing emails and direct debit information. Unfortunately it appears Outfox the Market still do not have a handle on this and have left many customers frustrated, angry and inconvenienced. It is also leading to customers leaving them for alternative suppliers. This in turn leads us back to the inevitable question of whether Outfox the Market itself will soon be out of the market? If they do go under, as many other small suppliers have done, then at least customers will be protected and any credit balances will be refunded in full as part of protections offered by Ofgem.
However this does not solve the fundamental, existing problems in the energy industry with continued confusion over tariffs. The only way things will change is if customers vote with their feet as Customer Service will only improve when companies see customers leaving and realise they need to change. Unfortunately this may be too late for companies such as Outfox the Market who may soon find themselves very much out of the market.
This post is based on personal experience as a previous customer of Outfox the Market. I left the company as their handling of the above issues was so poor I couldn’t justify remaining with them. In addition, their handling of my complaint was so poor I have had to take my complaint to the Ombudsman where it is currently under investigation.
If you are experiencing issues with your energy provider then you can find lots of useful information on The Complaining Cow website.