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