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The last days of doorstep – are energy companies playing fair?

Five of the big six energy suppliers have announced that they’ll stop doorstep selling. That’s great, but we want their last few weeks to be done by the book. But after an alert on Twitter, we’re not sure they are.

Earlier this week, Rob (@TheSocBiz) got in touch with our Which? Action Twitter account to tell us that he’d been visited by a Scottish Power rep offering him a new energy deal.

There’s no problem with that in itself – Scottish Power has announced that it’ll stop doorstep selling after 30 November, so we’re expecting their agents to still be in action.

But what Rob told us next was very puzzling:

‘[The salesperson said] something about “we’re in the area…. just checking…..” Then he says that they’ve taken over the supply of this area. I said that can’t be true. He said “that’s what I’ve been told.” Then he said “we’ve become the main generators for this area.”’

At this point alarm bells started ringing. That sounds like the sort of thing that could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – an energy salesperson should never mislead you into believing that it is the principle supplier in your area. We’ve passed this case on to Scottish Power, which it is now investigating.

A challenge to energy companies

We’re issuing a challenge for energy companies still on the doorstep – if you’ve announced you’ll stop doorstep selling, make sure that in the last few weeks of operation you’re squeaky clean. We want to know you’ll make sure anyone who does switch to your tariffs on their doorstep knows exactly what they’re getting into, and understands the deals you’re offering.

And we’re issuing a call to action to all consumers as well – if an energy salesperson knocks on your door and says any of the following things (or anything else you think is suspicious), tell us!

  • ‘We’ve taken over the supply’ – no energy company “takes over” the supply for a certain area – they’re all in competition for your business.
  • ‘I know you’re paying too much with your current supplier’ – they can’t know what you’re currently paying unless you’ve told them.

Should you switch energy deals?

Most of the big six have confirmed that their cheapest online tariffs aren’t actually available on the doorstep – you can find your cheapest tariff on a switching site, like Which? Switch.

So if you’re unsure about the deal you’re being offered on your doorstep, or if you think you’re being misled, take the details of the salesperson. Remember – you don’t have to switch your energy supplier, even if you feel under pressure. Do you think you’ve ever been mis-sold energy tariffs on your doorstep?

Sybilmari says:
27 October 2011

I believe unrequested doorstep selling should be made completely illegal, as should unrequested telephone, mail or email selling. It intrudes on my home and privacy – “Go away”!


Last year my 90 year old mother opened the door to someone holding up an identity card. She is registered severely visually impaired and is also hard of hearing and has vascular dementia. She heard “meter” and thought he was a meter reader, so let him in. She was distracted by the tv (Deal or No Deal!) and he persuaded her to sign a new contract with a different supplier. He was going to come back the next evening and explain it all to me. I rushed over the next night but he didn’t show up. I asked around and discovered he was the “Sales Manager” for the area and was actually just down the road when he was meant to be with us. Luckily my mother doesn’t have a bank account and so the contract was invalid. It took a while to find this out and I actually called the police, thinking he was a distraction burglar. I was probably more upset than my mother who, to this day, still believes he was a meter reader. This sort of selling should be banned. It preys on the vulnerable.


This is one of the reasons why all unsolicited home visits should be banned. It makes more sense to invite reps into the home if you are interested in a product or service. In the case of vulnerable people, arrangements could be made for someone else to be present during the meeting.

As a matter of principle I never let anyone into my home, and I politely (at least the first time) refuse to deal with companies that make unsolicited phone calls.

Kenj says:
28 October 2011

I have records going back 7 years detailing my gas/electricity consumption and the total annual cost of each. I can therefore calculate the average cost per kWh. When a doorstep salesman arrives I present these figures and ask him to call back proving that his supplier can do better. They never return.

Rachel says:
2 November 2011

In store sales stands are also probematic. I was once in WH Smiths, an energy supplier said that they would be able to find out if they could reduce what I was currently paying (of course they claimed that they could), took some details on a hand held tablet to supposedly do this then started to say ‘you have up to x no of days to cancel, just sign here for me’. Essentially trying to switch me without consent.


Just popping in for a quick update – Scottish Power have got in touch to tell us that they are looking into this issue. They’ve added that any agent breaking their standards will leave the company ‘immediately.’

Here’s the full response from a Scottish Power spokesperson:
“Scottish Power is stopping doorstep sales on November 30th. In the meantime we continue to operate a strict code of conduct in relation to our sales practices and we insist on appropriate high standards from all our representatives. We are investigating this complaint and if any of our agents has broken our standards they will leave the company immediately”.

As to others who have had poor service – personally I completely agree – I don’t like anyone coming to my home unsolicited. In fact, I get annoyed with anyone calling me or talking to me in the street about *anything* unsolicited. I know there are some people who like this as a way to find out about good products and services, but companies do need to be extremely careful and realise that their salespeople have a great responsibility to make sure they don’t pressurise customers in their homes or, in the case that Dee describes, completely take advantage of customers who do not understand why they are there. Dee – I’d be interested to know – did the police do anything?


Thanks for following this up Nikki. For other people’s benefit I’m @TheSocBiz – who the Scottish Power rep in this story visited last week.

I’ll wait to see if they respond re my specific complaint but in the meantime I have to say that I’m not impressed by what appears to be Scottish Power suggesting that something like this is the fault of one rogue agent.

The impression I got was that the agent I dealt with was very poorly trained. I don’t think it’s good enough for them to just blame it on the agent. They as a business should take responsibility for the people they employ, who have contact with customers such as myself.

I’d be interested to see if Scottish Power will share with us their code of conduct – so I and the rest of us can see what they consider to be acceptable sales tactics.




Hi all, I wanted to come in and give a quick update re: Scottish Power – they investigated this issue and have come back to us with their response, quoted directly below:

“ScottishPower is stopping doorstep sales on November 30th. In the meantime we continue to operate a strict code of conduct in relation to our sales practices and we insist on appropriate high standards from all our representatives. We have investigated [Rob]’s complaint and the sales agent in question has now been dismissed.”

Although I can’t comment on the details of this particular case (it was investigated by Scottish Power internally) it’s good that energy companies are listening when consumers raise these issues, and we’d like to see all energy companies making sure that sales agents play fair in the last few weeks of doorstep selling or, in the case of Eon (which has not yet stopped doorstep sales) making sure that if they do use this particular sales channel, they’re doing everything by the book.


Though not connected with doorstep sales you may be interested in the following comments.

After a thorough search of comparison sites in 2009 I switched from EDF to Scottish Power’s dual fuel On Line E