Mis-sell­ing fears as en­ergy firms go back to doorstep tac­tics

Daily Mail - - News - By Sean Poulter Con­sumer Af­fairs Editor

EN­ERGY firms are us­ing doorstep sales­men to sign up cus­tomers de­spite alarm­ing past mal­prac­tice.

The six big­gest power gi­ants stopped us­ing the tac­tic five years ago fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions that com­mis­sion-hun­gry agents were mis­lead­ing house­hold­ers.

How­ever a num­ber of small en­ergy firms – or bro­kers work­ing on their be­half – are now us­ing the dis­cred­ited method. Sales­men work­ing for at least ten com­pa­nies are said to be knock­ing on more than 500,000 doors a month.

The firms, which are gen­er­ally cheaper than the big six, in­sist their sales­men are giv­ing ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion on price.

Doorstep sell­ing fell into dis­re­pute af­ter it emerged peo­ple were be­ing mis­led about sav­ings and were even be­ing switched to more ex­pen­sive tar­iffs. In some cases, sig­na­tures were forged and cus­tomers were switched with­out their per­mis­sion.

The scan­dal dam­aged pub­lic trust in the idea of switch­ing sup­plier and more than 60 per cent of house­holds are sit­ting on ex­pen­sive stan­dard vari­able tar­iffs. At the week­end Theresa May in­di­cated the Gov­ern­ment would act to cur­tail the deals.

The big six – Bri­tish Gas, SSE, Eon, Npower, EDF and Scot­tish Power – no longer seek new cus­tomers with doorstep sales af­ter some were hit with huge fines.

How­ever, Scot­tish Power did sug­gest re­turn­ing to the tac­tic in a sub­mis­sion to an in­quiry into the en­ergy sec­tor by the Com­pe­ti­tion & Mar­kets Author­ity. Some small sup­pli­ers such as Oc­to­pus En­ergy and Utilita are us­ing their own doorstep agents.

Ann Robin­son, a for­mer chair­man of the con­sumer body En­er­gyWatch, said the cost of of doorstep sales was passed on to house­holds.

And Dale Vince, founder of the green en­ergy firm Ecotric­ity, com­plained doorstep sales were ‘rife with abuse and bad prac­tice’ and should be banned. The in­dus­try reg­u­la­tor Ofgem says such sell­ing is le­gal as long

‘Abuse and bad prac­tice’

as the deals are mar­keted in ‘a fair, trans­par­ent, ap­pro­pri­ate and pro­fes­sional man­ner’. It is cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing Econ­omy En­ergy and E over claims of mis-sell­ing.

Greg Jack­son, founder of Oc­to­pus En­ergy, said its doorstep agents use iPads to pro­vide ac­cu­rate sav­ings es­ti­mates, track move­ments and au­diorecord all sales.

‘We have cre­ated tech­nol­ogy that dra­mat­i­cally im­proves the con­trol we have over ex­actly what hap­pens on the doorstep. This is a route to sav­ing ten mil­lion house­holds from over­pay­ing by £200 a year,’ he said.

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