Ofgem’s investigation into four energy companies over mis-selling isn’t a surprise. Consumers have been telling us shocking tales for nearly 15 years, and whatever’s done, it’s likely the flow of complaints will continue.
Earlier this year we reported on some nonsense spun by an energy rep, who claimed that you’d always get the lowest prices from the supplier owning the network in your area. This is the same sort of rubbish that energy reps have been spouting for years.
My own experience of doorstep selling has been consistently poor. Whenever I’ve asked the rep to give me anything in writing, there’s always been a reason why he can’t.
In a hilarious turn of events, 10 years ago two reps for Npower blundered into reception at the Which? London office and asked to read the meter to ‘check our billing was correct’. They said they could ‘bill us directly, rather than through our existing supplier’. We sent them away and reported them to Npower, who suspended them for retraining.
Consumers don’t trust energy companies
Over the years, we’ve seen many similar complaints. The effect of this long-standing behaviour is that consumers don’t trust energy companies. Nor do they like the way they’re treated as customers.
A recent Which? poll showed four out of five members of the public don’t think these companies are trustworthy. In April, we found that customers weren’t very satisfied with their suppliers, with several big names included (Eon, British Gas, EDF and Npower).
Npower scraped the bottom of the barrel with a dire 27%. That’s even worse than the banks’ scores. But it’s gone on for so long that you have to wonder whether the energy companies actually care about how they’re viewed.
Energy companies must regain our trust
Now, the energy watchdog Ofgem is investigating Npower, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy and EDF. These are not minor players in the industry – this is a huge slice of the market. We’re pleased Ofgem says it’ll come down hard on any firms found guilty of mis-selling, but it won’t be the first time it’s tried to tackle this problem. And it won’t be the last.
Whatever a sales rep tells you, it’s never going to be as safe a bet as using an independent switching site, such as Which? Switch, so my advice is to politely turn away from these reps.
The energy industry is going to have to make a huge effort if it wants to regain the trust it’s lost over the years. But first, it has to care about it.