The TPI Triad – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

TPI Triad – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Here at Niccolo we’re incredibly passionate about ensuring the brokers we work with are fair, honest, transparent and helpful with their customers.

Brokers represent the face of energy businesses many customers are familiar with, and so their practice has to also represent the values and practices of the company, too.

Unlike the way they oversee much of the energy industry and its shareholders, Ofgem do not regulate Third Party Intermediaries (TPIs) like brokers. This means that energy companies often detail their Codes of Conduct and are responsible for ensuring that the TPIs they engage with are representing their company, and their values, accurately.

If you have a concern with the broker you are doing business with is not meeting the standards you are expecting it is important to get in contact with the energy supplier to complain about, and make them aware of, the shortcomings of the brokers.

What is a TPI?

Third Party Intermediaries include switching websites, energy efficiency advice providers, and energy brokers. Third Party Intermediaries may offer advice and products which assist a customer across a range of services including procuring energy, energy efficiency, and energy management.

Unlike energy suppliers, Third Party Intermediaries are not subject to direct sectoral regulation. At least, not in the same way. TPIs are regulated with regard to general consumer protection rules. In some cases, Third Party Intermediaries may sign up voluntarily to be governed and regulated. These agreements typically monitor their business practice generally, as well as their interactions with customers.

The Changing Role of a TPI

Ofgem predicts that, with the major market developments such as smart metering, the role and prevalence of TPIs in the energy market will increase in future years. Obviously, this poses some risks to the energy industry as there will be an increase in the unregulated side of the industry, holistically making the industry less well-regulated.

Ofgem are mindful of this and are currently working on a number of projects which aim to improve TPIs and their services. The goal of this would to ultimately improve customer satisfaction and experience.

In their own words, the TPI programmes will aim to:

Long-term GoalsAddressing and Improving the Regulatory Framework TPIs function within.
Short-term GoalsCreating bespoke regulatory measures to cover household and business consumers.

You can find out more about Ofgem’s work here.

Regulating TPIs

So, as aforementioned, TPIs are not regulated in the same way energy suppliers are. However, TPIs are expected by the suppliers they represent to adhere to industry expectations within the TPI Code of Conduct.

Below is a summarised version of the Code of Conduct we hold our brokers to at Niccolo:

Sales MaterialAny and all sales material will be written clearly. The writing and content will be honest and accurate.
Responsible SellingMisleading sales techniques will not be used. A customer’s inexperience with the industry will not be exploited. All clients will be treated with respect and sensitivity.
No PressureHigh-pressure sales techniques will not be used. Customers will not be mislead into committing to a contract until confident to do so.
Annual EstimationIf asked for, annual estimates will be issued to a customer before a contract is signed. The estimate will be based on the most up-to-date information, will be explained, and the calculation process will be specified.
Laws and RegulationsBrokers should adhere to the Supply Licence Condition 7a, Ofgem’s Standards of Conduct, Data Protection Act, AUDDIS, and Business Protection Regulations and Employment law.
Letters of AuthorityWhen a broker is responsible for acting on the customer’s behalf they must be requested to do so by the customer. A customer must also have signed a Letter of Authority which has been written in clear, easily understood language.
Energy Supplier’s ContractsBefore a customer signs anything which creates a contract with their supplier the TPI should ensure the customer fully understands the document. Here at Niccolo we no longer issue verbal contracts, but the same should apply for TPIs who deal with suppliers who may. Find out more about the dangers of verbal contracts here.
Contract RejectionsIf any issue arises with a new contract, the broker should work with the customer to resolve the issue.
ComplaintsA simple and effective way of handling complaints should be made clear to customers.
AuditsAn annual audit of the TPI should take place, ensuring the Code of Conduct is being properly adhered to.

What This Means

For Niccolo:

Here at Niccolo we respect this Code of Conduct.

If you are a broker interested in working with us, who is happy and capable of meeting all these expectations, then we would be incredibly happy to work with you. Providing excellent customer service is paramount to us so obviously we extend this standard to our TPIs too.

If you are a customer, you can be assured that the standard of care and support we provide and hold our TPIs too is this high. Your wellbeing and your experience are both important to us and we want to make sure we provide the best service possible.

For You:

Before you engage with a broker be sure you apply this Code of Conduct to their practices.

We have a helpful guide which can support you in noticing broker malpractice. It is important you research into the company you are choosing to do business with properly so that you can make the most informed decisions.

What Bad Brokers Can Look Like

Below are some real-life reviews and criticisms of some broker horror stories:

“Complete and utter nightmare – they have taken a substantial amount of money through direct debit, so I imagine I’ll have a long fight ahead.”

“They took payment upfront which took us by surprise. They were really difficult to get hold of when we were changing our tenancy and so we had to delay moving by a month until we could get through. Very poor customer service.”

“Just been told there’s going to be another price rise – 2nd in 2 months! I chose the company for the low prices and since then they’ve done nothing but increase.”

“Even though I was supported by the Energy Ombudsman I still haven’t had my money back. I have been through the complaint procedure multiple times. This is a joke!”

As you can see, overlooking the small details in the first place (such as searching for good reviews, checking the company’s reputation, and comparing prices across the market to notice any low, or high, red flags) tend to cost a lot in the long run.

Things which are important to look for when conducting this process are good reviews, friend/family recommendations, Ofgem accredited comparison sites, and checking an energy supplier’s list of trusted suppliers.

Below is the complete list of Ofgem accredited price comparison websites:

  1. Energy Helpline,
  2. Energylinx,
  3. The Energy Shop,
  4. Money Supermarket,
  5. My Utility Genius,
  6. Runpath,
  7. Simply Switch,
  8. Switch Gas and Electric,
  9. Quotezone,
  10. Unravel It,
  11. Uswitch.

As these websites all comply with Ofgem’s Confidence Code.

REMEMBER: The switch-over process between suppliers can take up to 21 DAYS. In most cases, it is around 17.

The energy industry is a tricky one to navigate, especially if you do not understand much about the market itself (as this is often exploited), but by arming yourself with the most knowledge you can you can increase your chances of making good deals and better decisions for your energy supply.