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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?

Comments
Guest
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”!

Guest

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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?

Guest

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.

Thanks

Rob

Guest

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.

Guest

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 Energy Saver 7. This November they advised me that they were increasing my monthly direct debit from £66 to £84. When challenged this was reduced to reduced to £74. Further research suggested that On Line Energy Saver 16 offered a better deal. Scottish Power was evasive when tackled and would not directly confirm my findings but I decided to switch tariff and my direct debit is now back to £66 per month. I have no confidence in Scottish Power but on the basis of “the devil you know” I decided not to switch supplier.

PS
How on earth can Scottish Power justify 10 On Line Energy Saver tariffs in two years?

Guest
Ken Boyle says:
8 December 2011

British Gas,are offering free loft insulation but if you have more than six inches depth already you wont be able to have it.As told to me by the sales person on my doorstep saturday3rd December 2011.He wanted me to speak on his mobile phone to make an appointment then and there.Igot shot of BG 6years previously and have no intention of returning.Ifeel this is just an exscuse to gain entry and start talking sales.

Guest

Hi Ken
Did British Gas tell you this during a pre-arranged appointment?

Jenny

Guest
Rob Greenland says:
19 September 2012

Hi

I’m @TheSocBiz – the original story is about my experience with Scottish Power.

Yesterday I had another call at my door – two Scottish Power agents who said they were from “Scottish Power and The Energy Savings Trust”

I’ve followed this up with EST and they have confirmed that this is misleading – EST are currently working with SP to find a way to work together but the process isn’t signed off yet – so they shouldn’t be saying anything like this.

To me, it just appears like another way to try to get round door-step selling rules. The guy made it clear, when I challenged him, that it wasn’t about getting me to switch – although they would provide me with a quote if I wanted one.

Do you want to follow this up?

thanks
Rob

Guest

Hello
I would be interested to know more about what the sales agents said on the doorstep.
Jenny

Guest
Rob Greenland says:
19 September 2012

Hi Jenny

I can’t remember all of it – but the opening line about being from SP and EST is the key one I think.

They then talked about how they’d like to help me save money on my energy bills – I asked how they’d do that and they said they’d like to ask me some questions about my energy use patterns – it would take 5 or 10 mins. I asked if this was just a way to get me to switch and they said no, they don’t do that on the doorstep any more, but would happily offer me a quote if I wanted one. I ended it there (I work from home so didn’t have time to pursue it more)

EST have confirmed that they shouldn’t be saying this – they are going through some kind of process so that they can work together to offer energy advice (I think that’s what EST said) but it isn’t signed off yet. They are following things up with SP.

SP have responded via twitter – I don’t think their response is adequate – if you want to email me I’ll happily forward it on to you.

Rob

Guest
J heywood says:
22 April 2013

!!!Scottish power have sent a request to our current supplier to switch us over, WITHOUT OUR CONSENT!!! They now say they may not be able to switch us back to our cheaper tariff with our original supplier. Our original supplier is trying to sort it out but agree we may not be able to go back!!!