Home heating oil retailers and online brokers ‘must honor their agreed contracts’

The Department of Economy’s Trading Standards Department explained when home heating oil retailers and online brokers can be in breach of contract.

As fuel and heating oil prices continue to rise, TSS’s consumer helpline, Consumerline, has seen a high volume of non-delivery calls over the past week.

Most complainants alleged that they were quoted a price and paid for the heating oil on the day of ordering and were then told that the price had increased significantly on the day of delivery (usually three to five working days later).

Read more:Why NI Gasoline and Diesel Prices Change Due to Location

Consumers are then warned that they must pay the higher price, otherwise the order will be cancelled.

Damien Doherty, Northern Ireland Trading Standards Director, said: “If a home heating oil retailer or online broker enters into an agreement for an order of heating oil with an agreed price and accepts payment, they have entered into a contract legally binding If the oil is not then delivered, it will likely amount to a breach of contract.

Companies could face enforcement action

“Quoting a price and collecting payment on the day of the order and then charging a higher price on the day of delivery is also likely to constitute a breach of contract.

“The Consumer Protection Against Unfair Commercial Practices (CPR) Regulations 2008 prevent businesses from treating consumers unfairly. The circumstances of the complaints received by Consumerline may give rise to a violation of the Rules. Businesses that fail to comply with consumer protection laws risk being subject to enforcement action.

“TSS has the power to investigate any complaints relating to breaches of the CPRs, particularly if a trader has previously received advice from this service or receives other complaints about a business.

“TSS is also aware that many home heating oil companies treat their customers fairly and honor agreed contracts. energy has a significant impact on traders, too.”

To avoid breaching consumer protection legislation, TSS provides the following advice to home heating oil retailers and online agents:

  • Petroleum retailers will need to change their business practices to ensure that consumers are made aware that currently prices may fluctuate and that the price charged will be the day of delivery price rather than the day of ordering, if is what they intend to do. This will need to be made clear in all phone calls, in writing (if applicable) and on websites/social media pages while the trend of steep price increases continues;
  • Traders should also avoid accepting payments in advance, where possible, when they cannot guarantee that they will honor the price of oil quoted on the day of the order;
  • If a trader offers a price and accepts payment on the same day but attempts to charge a higher price on the day of delivery without first informing the customer that the price may increase, he will be in breach of the CPRs and the contract;
  • If a contract has not been honored, the Trading Standards Service expects any trader to contact the customer as soon as possible to discuss possible solutions, including issuing immediate refunds.

If consumers have a complaint about oil deliveries they should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or log on to www.consumerline.org.

Read more:New figures show skyrocketing cost of 500 liters of heating oil in Northern Ireland

Read more:Savings on heating oil in NI as prices rise 80% in ten days

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