Hayley Heap, who runs a post office at St Austell, switched from British Gas to Powergen for electricity 12 months ago. "It was cheap to start with, then the deal wasn't so good. So we wanted to go to Npower. When we rang Powergen it said our contract had expired in January and it had written to us (never received) and now we're stuck for another year."
Ah, the infamous roll-over contract. Energy brokers tell me that the minute you sign up for a cheap deal, put in your notice to end it when the contract is up, otherwise they'll stick you on a roll-over and put up the price.
Ola Balogun, who trades in London's Forest Hill, also switched from British Gas to EDF, which put in a meter. When the bill came it was £428 for three months, double the usual. When Ola rang to complain, EDF said it had put the business on the highest tariff and agreed to switch it for a cheaper one. "Why didn't it offer this before?" asks Ola.
Hurendra Bhatt, a regular correspondent from North London who runs Universal Newsagents, was also with EDF. "It supplied me for more than two years and the price virtually doubled after the contract was finished. So I did an internet search (Electricity4business.co.uk) and found a half-price deal."
John Palmer, who trades in Lancashire, would like to switch from British Gas. He says he has been charged between £300 and £400 extra for his latest quarter. Ofgem told him to get a copy of his contract from British Gas. Chance would be a fine thing. Umpteen calls later he's now hoping Energy Watch can help.
And most bizarre is Hitendra Patel's problem. He's no longer sure whether he is with EON or British Gas because of contractual screw-ups and bills that don't materialise. He switched his store at Harold Hill in Essex to a meter in February 2006 and it blew up his CCTV system, "and I keep reading about saving energy".
My advice is to join Nigel Dowdney's campaign. The Norwich retailer complains of incorrect invoices, lies and threats and a mix-up that resulted in him paying one company for energy while being supplied by another.
Nigel is looking for retailers' experiences so that he can go to Energy Watch with meaningful evidence. So, will all of you above and anybody else with a tale to tell email Nigel on Nigel@opolka.co.uk (putting 'utilities' in the subject line) or write to: Earlham Shopper, 9-11 Earlham West Centre, Norwich, Norfolk NR5 8AD (and put 'utilities' in bottom left corner of the envelope).

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