Responding to the £1.25 million fine issued at Guildford Crown Court today to SSE for using a misleading doorstep sales script, Audrey Gallacher, Director of Energy at Consumer Focus, said:
‘Firms must not be left to profit at the expense of customers who have been misled. A fine of £1.25 million set by the court sends a very strong message to the energy industry that it must play fair by its customers and get it right on sales. Surrey Trading Standards should be applauded for its persistent pursuit of a guilty verdict over these obviously misleading sales practices.
‘It is positive that since this case started most energy firms have ended cold-call sales on the doorstep. Poor practices like this are unacceptable and drag the reputation of the energy industry further through the mud. We hope the lessons learned from this issue will mean energy firms make sure they put consumer protection and customer service at the heart of all their sales methods.
‘We’d urge any customer who thinks they may have lost out after being missold to by an SSE salesperson to contact the firm to seek compensation. We are also calling on E.ON, as the only major supplier left who has failed to stop cold-call doorstep sales, to end this distrusted sales practice immediately.’
Consumer Focus is urging any current or former SSE customer who thinks they may have lost out to the company on the doorstep, or through any other sales practice, to contact the firm about getting compensation through SSE’s sales guarantee. Under the guarantee, SSE promises that any customer who shows that they switched to SSE after being given inaccurate information or being misled will have any resulting financial loss recompensed. The SSE sales guarantee helpline can be reached on 0845 0707 388.
Notes to editors:
- This is believed to be the largest fine ever resulting from any court case brought by Trading Standards.
- Currently three of the ‘Big Six’ suppliers, Scottish Power, SSE and npower are being investigated by Ofgem about whether their previous door-step sales practices have broken the rules. Ofgem is also investigating potential misselling by E.ON but is unclear whether this relates to doorstep sales.
- Consumer Focus research in July 2011 showed:
- More than nine out of ten people who have bought energy products on the door would never do so again
- Only 4% of people are positive about energy door step sales
- Only 1% of consumers see doorstep sales as a useful way to find out about products
- 41% of consumers felt under pressure to buy on the doorstep
- 50% of those who sign up on the door for a product or service, and then changed their mind, signed up because they felt pressurised
- 79% of customers would prefer prior appointments agreed before a sales visit
Doorstep sales timeline.
Tuesday 10 May 2011 – SSE found guilty of using a misleading sales script for doorstep energy sales
Friday 27 May 2011 – SSE appeals against guilty verdict
Friday 8 July 2011 – SSE announces that they are suspending doorstep sales
Saturday 23 July 2011 – Further to negotiations with suppliers Consumer Focus publishes research which shows consumer distrust of energy sales and calls for all energy firms to end cold-call doorstep energy sales.
Friday 12 August 2011 – British Gas announces that it will be suspending energy doorstep sales
Wednesday 7 September 2011 – EDF announces that it will be suspending energy doorstep sales
Tuesday 11 October 2011 – British Gas announces that it will be permanently ending cold call energy doorstep sales
Monday 17 October 2011 – npower announces that it will be ending energy doorstep sales
Friday 21 October 2011 – Scottish Power announces that it will be ending energy doorstep sales
Thursday 15 December 2011 – SSE announces a sales guarantee
Friday 16 March 2012 – SSE’s appeal against the guilty verdict for doorstep misselling case fails – company found guilty
Wednesday 4 April 2012 – Ofgem investigation announced into potential misselling by E.ON (it is unclear what type of sales the investigation relates to)
Friday 4 May 2012 – SSE fine set for doorstep misselling guilty verdict.