/ Home & Energy

You said no to doorstep selling – so does British Gas

Doorbell being pressed

British Gas has announced that it may stop door-to-door selling. We’re cracking out the Cava, but probably won’t be onto the champagne until we can see companies move away from pressure sales altogether.

When we asked what you thought about cold callers on Which? Convo, we had an overwhelming response.

Of the more than 1,000 who voted, 95% of you said you’d rather doorstep sellers didn’t come to your house at all.

And now – hooray! – at least one company is thinking of stopping it altogether. Its official reason is that because other energy companies have been mis-selling tariffs, British Gas doesn’t want to be associated with them. But surely part of the reason must be that consumers, like you and me, really don’t like it?

Under pressure

No one likes to be pressured into buying something they don’t want, but it’s not just door-to-door sales that make people feel harassed – phone sales also make us uncomfortable.

The results of our energy sales survey in May were, perhaps, unsurprising. Of the 44% of people who’d been phoned by an energy company in the last 12 months, six out of ten felt under pressure to switch.

And I think pressure selling is more of an issue with energy companies than any other industry, since comparing energy tariffs is so complicated in the first place. Ideally everyone would have the option to compare tariffs before they signed on the dotted line, but with doorstep sales that’s frequently not the case.

Can you imagine a salesperson waiting patiently with a cup of tea while you double-checked their claims on an energy switching site? Me neither.

Better rules for salespeople

There isn’t enough consumer protection, either. Although you do have some rights when people sell you things door-to-door, we don’t think the code is strict enough. You can get compensation if someone ‘misrepresents’ a product, but only in specific circumstances. It wouldn’t get you compensation if you were messed around by the latest SSE mis-selling tactics, for example.

So although it’s great that my dinner won’t be interrupted by British Gas any time soon, I think we’ve still got further to go. Both door-to-door and phone sales are frustrating for the majority of consumers.

Although I wouldn’t ask for them to be banned outright (there are, after all, some people who think they’re a useful way to find out about new products), I do think that companies should have a serious rethink about their tactics. In my opinion, if your customer buys your product just to get rid of you, you haven’t done a very good job.

Ben Rose says:
21 June 2011

I’ll be honest, doorstep selling actually helped me out once.

In June 2006, I moved into a new build property that already had the utilities connected by the builder and were signed up to British Gas. I’ve always refused to do business with British Gas since they left me without heating or hot water over a very cold weekend many years ago, so I was naturally keen to change to my preferred supplier.

I called EDF, my preferred supplier at the time, and tried to switch to them. The problem was that the meters had been installed at the address of the corner building plot, registered to one street and an adjacent postcode but the official address of the house was at a different postcode and even on a different street. All very confusing and nobody had a clue and I was constantly getting phone calls asking for meter readings, reference numbers etc. My house just didn’t appear on the meter database and, without references, British Gas refused to let me go. I tried, quite literally for months and EDF made 2 or 3 unsuccessful attempts to transfer services over. All failed.

Then, one day, an E.on rep knocked the door trying to get me to transfer my utilities to them. I told him that if he could do the required paperwork, I’d happily swap. He came in the house, carefully noted ALL the details, not just those required for the normal new customer, checker meter numbers etc. and said that it should all go through. It did.

Without that knock at the door, I’d likely still be stuck with British Gas and I’m better off for it.

Dan says:
19 March 2012

Reply to Ben Rose, I am an eon energy consultant and have come across new build cross meters many times, unless you know exactly what you are doing it is impossible to sort out, door to door can be very useful and shows the face of the company and many peoples first impressions of us.

Dan says:
22 June 2011

I don’t think Door to Door is a bad thing as long as the person is honest and qualified, at least you can ask questions there and then to a real person, personal touch is being replaced far to oftern by robotic call centres which no one likes, Remember if you don’t want door to door then just put a sticker on the door saying so “some can be quite funny”, I think the real reason is British Gas has to pay people to do door to door and because they can’t offer massive savings the normal customer won’t sign up to them and its not cost effective for British Gas. Wonder how many people British Gas is having to lay off work because of there so called more friendly approach ???

Paul Mizen says:
30 June 2011

British Gas has a cheek to cast a stone at SSE, SSE has consistently had the best customer service by far, a thing British Gas and the other leading suppliers have envied for years. As for selling techniques, British Gas has always used “NO STANDING CHARGE” this is a two rate scale most people do not understand, the first Tier of units are Higher and you have to use this “HIGHER” rate of units before you go on to the lower rate. This your “STANDING CHARGE” as the transportation of the gas,has got to be paid for. If there is was NO STANDING CHARGE you would only pay ONE single rate, not TWO. All the companies now implement this, only because BRITISH GAS exploited this method originally. SHAME ON YOU.

British Gas has now announced a permanent end to doorstep sales! They’ll only sell in customers homes ‘with their prior agreement’. Good news?

CRAIG says:
25 October 2011

All these companys are in my opinion are in cahoots with each other let me guess who will stop doorstep next.Its nothing todo with WHICH or OFGEM these companys dont want fining like SSE.But to punish there workers who work in rain,hale,sleet and snow and get rejected talked to like rubbish,looked down on is a disgrace.In the current climate coming up to Christmas it really does make me sick.

CRAIG says:
25 October 2011

Venue sales is the new wave of selling all comparisons done on average consumption rather than getting the exact kwhs of the bill like a doorstep seller would. Thats really clever that is well done all you that petitioned against doorstep selling just make sure when you go shopping to take your gas ans electric bill with you!!!!!!!!!