Monday, 3 January 2011

Beware cheap oil offers...

Normally this blog site's policy is to promote examples of good practice for holiday cottage owners. However, as the site's ultimate purpose is to benefit the owners of holiday properties (and those that stay in them) occasionally it's our practice to bring to your attention things to avoid. And here's one such story, brought to our attention by the owner of a beautiful off the beaten track barn conversion at Down Farm near Brayford in North Devon.

As most owners are becoming painfully aware, especially in areas where mains gas is not available, the price of heating oil has spiraled in the past few months by as much as 90%.  This has given rise to a growing number of websites offering oil at discount prices well below those likely to be charged by your usual supplier. But beware.

If you find a site offering what seems to be an extremely reasonable rate - read the small print. There are a growing number of companies offering an 'advance buy' service where you pay for your oil at least a month in advance in order to secure a massive discount -e.g. 50p a litre as opposed to the 65-70p being charged in December 2010. You pay up front and a month later the oil is delivered. If it isn't the company guarantees your money back.

So, after waiting a month (or so), if the price of oil has not slipped to the level the company promised to supply your oil the oil won't be delivered. When you eventually ask for your money back you are indeed refunded in accordance with your contract which usually means it is repaid at least a month or more later. All that has happened is that they have taken your money and invested it in a high interest account for 2-3 of months to make a few pounds. As the service is all completely automated and costs little to operate it makes a nice little earner for the company.

Of course, if the price of oil slips below the amount at which you purchased it, e.g. below 50p a litre, then your oil will be delivered at your now more expensive rate (and sourced through your local supplier anyway) and the company has made a profit on that part of the deal as well as the interest on your advance payment.

Of course it is all totally legal, but it won't get you the cheap oil you thought you were purchasing in the first place. So, read the small print on any offer for cut price oil!

If you've got any stories on this issue or want to send the addresses of any companies known to be operating this scheme, please use the comments button to send them in.

Thanks! For our next blog we'll return to the art of being positive!