April 27, 2017

AgeUK: sort yourselves out!

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TheSunIt is very sad to see it reported today that AgeUK has been pushing expensive energy tariffs to the elderly in exchange for £6 million a year from energy giant E.ON.

The Sun reported this in an investigation this morning

Age UK recommended a special rate from E.ON which saw pensioners typically pay £1,049 for a year’s fuel — £245 more than on the firm’s cheapest 2015 rate.

Around 152,000 customers are on the deal, meaning a total overspend of £37million in a year.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has asked watchdog Ofgem to investigate and report back.

It is sad to see AgeUK get caught up in this, almost certainly the result of the corrosive influence of commercial involvement in charities.

AgeUK is the one large bureaucratic charity that has done good in the retirement housing sector, producing decent reports and submissions to the authorities.

It is also also a consistent supporter of Carlex’s analysis of the retirement housing sector – there are plenty of inducements not to agree with it.

None of its efforts have been funded by housebuilders (unlike the drivel produced by the formerly Blairite think tank Demos).

AgeUK also avoided like the plague disastrous Campaign for Housing in Later Life – the campaign funded by the House Builders’ Federation, registered to McCarthy and Stone HQ, and fronted by Esther Rantzen, who remains deaf to the parlous state of retirement housing in the UK.

Shelter, on the other hand, signed up but quickly resigned from this campaign – basically, special pleading for easier planning for retirement housebuilders – after Carlex kicked up a fuss. It has consistently done nothing about retirement housing or wider leasehold at all.

Peverel / FirstPort which had wheedled its way into this campaign was then expelled. (And we have not heard anything about it since, although Esther Rantzen spoke about last month. But one suspects she has limited interest in this sector.)

It is true that AgeUK’s discontinued leasehold help service was funded by Peverel, which was also an error.

But there are good people involved in the charity. There will be a tightening up after this scandal, and it can only do good to make it public.

Full marks to The Sun for doing some proper journalism and putting this large charity under scrutiny.

Comment from AgeUK:

“We strongly reject the allegations and interpretation of figures.

“The Age UK Fixed 2 Year tariff offers a good deal and was the market leading 2 year tariff when launched in January. For example, the Age UK Fixed two Year tariff(1) is over £100 cheaper than that E.ON Standard Variable tariff (2) and is cheaper than other variable tariffs.

“When customers contact us they are offered a choice of all four E.ON tariffs and many choose the one year tariff or variable option, however many prefer the reassurance of a fixed tariff for two years. We have no exit fees so customers can move anytime if they find a different deal. This means they can pick a tariff that best suits their needs. E.ON also offers a free Price Alerts system that lets customers know of potentially better deals as soon as they’re available.

“The long term Commercial partnership includes a typical commission to Age UK of £10 for each customer. Financial support beyond this is not linked to customer numbers.
The past two years have seen much volatility in the energy market and with E.ON’s support we have managed to maintain our level of charitable work over this time. This reflects the strength of the 14 year relationship.”

Comments

  1. Michael Hollands says:

    The Sun is probably being a bit hard on AGE UK. When they first promoted the EON rate it may well have been the cheapest one they had.
    But rates are consistently changing in an effort to stave off competition and keep customers, so a lower one could easily have been introduced.
    To avoid the current situation EON should have agreed at the time, that the rate for the elderly would always be competitive. I assume that this was overlooked.
    I am sure the £6m that AGE UK have “pocketed” has been put to good use.

  2. Trevor Bradley says:

    ME, I think you are being a bit too kind to Age UK on this one.
    To know the full facts we need to know what the tariff cost was recommended to the elderly and what was the cheapest tariff, if any, they could have had. That is the crucial question I require an answer on to make a fair decision.
    If there was a cheaper tariff, then Age Uk are guilty as charged.
    Another point is that they are supposed to be “caring” towards the elderly. If that be the case that should have a system in place that immediately tells their client that the tariff they are on has now been superseded by a cheaper one and move to that.
    The £6M may, repeat may have been put to good use but, if there were cheaper tariffs who has really contributed to that payment.
    Age uk say they receive £10 commission per customer, but the normal payment by the utilities is around £60 per customer.
    At the end of the day, the £6M that EON have paid can only have come from one place, all of its customers, who are still paying far too much.
    Should have gone to Martin Lewis at Money Supermarket!! For every £60 the utilities give him for a new customer, he sends the customer half of it back

  3. Trevor Bradley says:

    Ok, I have spread sheets all set up for these type of things. EON say prices are volatile, and the 2 year fixed was the cheapest when first introduced, compared to its other tariffs at that same time.
    Ok, lets forget the past figs and just look at todays.
    I know exactly the units I use on gas and electric and just switched from Brit Gas to Brit Gas – yes, sounds crazy but you could only do it via Martin Lewis website and it has dropped my monthly bill by £15 still using same units. There are even cheaper deals out there but I stick with top 6 when comparing.
    So using units that I do, my new tariff is now £725 pa. If I switch to age uk fixed 2 year, their recommendation as of today their/eon prices will mean my bill goes to £840 pa. That’s £115 pa more for same amount of gas/elec.
    And, remember, the higher the bill is on my current tariff the larger the increase/gap gets with Age uk fixed 2 year
    So the current tariff recommended by Age uk can be easily beaten
    We need to remember, a lot of people, especially the elderly are “scared/frightened” of what “might” happen, they are misled into 2 year tariffs that really cost them more in the end.
    The bottom line is age UK are not offering anyone who approaches them what they should really do to get the BEST price

  4. Michael Epstein says:

    Trevor Bradley, Not me Guv! The comment was from Michael Hollands not me!
    AGE UK has got form in conflicting interests between those they are supposed to be looking out for and commercial interests. anyone remember a “pulled” report into the activities of Peverel/Firstport?
    When it comes to electricity another fast one played on residents is where a managing agent negotiates with a supplier for bulk supply for development communal areas.
    In the case of Peverel/Firstport Retirement, their management contract allows for them to keep for themselves any bulk purchase rebates/discounts. So the higher the agreed supply charges are, the more money they get to keep. Neither the supplier(in this case EDF) nor Peverel/Firstport appear willing to comment on this.

  5. Trevor Bradley says:

    ME, my sincere apologies, I did mean MH.
    I agree, this is not the first time AGE UK has been involved in conflicting interests.
    I also wonder how far down “the wrong path” they may have gone in these cases if the said matters had not been brought to light

    • Michael Hollands says:

      OK, ME andTB
      It is two to one against me.
      What AGE UK should do now is submit details to EON of everyone they have put onto the original EON Tariff.
      And ask that they now be put on the lowest EON Tariff.
      I do believe that AGE UK do good things for the elderly, in fact they are organising my Funeral, and guarantee satisfaction.