The curious tale of SSE and the misplaced Which? research
SSE say they’ll be appealing their mis-selling convictions, saying their sales processes are ‘fair and responsible’. But we discovered what we think is misleading marketing material about a Which? energy survey…
It all started with an eagle-eyed Which? reader taking a stroll around his local Marks & Spencer.
M&S is currently in partnership with SSE to sell energy tariffs and give its customers benefits in the form of M&S vouchers.
But our intrepid reader wasn’t deal-hunting, he was just perusing their literature when he saw what he thought was a mistake: ‘Which? members rate M&S Energy the best!’
He’d read the most recent Which? energy satisfaction survey and knew that SSE didn’t come out top at all, but fourth.
Misleading marketing tactics
So why were they claiming first prize? Well, after a tip-off from our reader we went in hunt of SSE reps in local Marks & Spencer stores.
We eventually uncovered the get-out clause. In the small print at the bottom of the leaflet, SSE had pointed out that they’d cherry-picked their information – they simply meant they were ‘the best out of the Big Six energy companies’.
Is that fair? Well, perhaps in a world where everyone dons a deerstalker, picks up a magnifying glass, and scrutinises the small print on every in-store marketing promotion. But in this world – the real world – we think it’s pretty misleading.
Greedy companies cashing in?
Jenny Driscoll, senior campaigner at Which?, says the judgement on SSE should be a wake-up call to all energy companies:
‘This isn’t the crime of the century but it’s one of many incidents that leave consumers confused and misled. Too many energy companies now have mis-selling fiascos attached to their names which is leaving the industry with a really, really bad reputation.
‘The result is that most people don’t trust energy companies, thinking they’re “as bad as each other”. Every week newspapers dish out headlines of sky-high energy prices and greedy companies cashing in. The companies complain that they don’t (always) deserve this kind of bad press. Maybe. But if they are breaking the law to make a quick sale, who can blame the journalists for writing the stories and the public for reading them?’
So what will SSE do now?
They may have to pay a fine for their doorstep crime, and will be appealing, but there’s no legal obligation for them to do anything for M&S Energy customers. Well, we think they should compensate any customers who feel they were misled by the marketing claims.
SSE have now withdrawn the offending marketing material. But is it enough? Do you agree that customers should be compensated as well? And are you one of the unlucky few who has been led astray by SSE’s claim that we’d rated them top?
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