New calls have been raised to ban doorstep sales by energy companies amid rising public distrust of the practice – and anger towards the suppliers.
Selling gas and electricity plans on the doorstep is a lucrative way for energy companies to win new customers, but it also places pressure on consumers to switch providers and leaves many worse off.
That’s why consumer groups are calling for an immediate three-month ban on the practice of doorstep selling by energy providers.
An investigation by energy industry watchdog Ofgem found that almost a third of customers who had switched their energy supplier did so because of doorstep salespeople.
However, consumer group Consumer Focus found that the majority of the customers who switched to a new supplier in this way were left unhappy with their choice.
According to Consumer Focus, half of those who switched energy products at the door said they felt under pressure to do so, while 9 in 10 said they would never do so again. Just 1% of respondents said doorstep selling was a useful way of finding out about other energy products.
A spokesperson for the watchdog commented: “Ofgem is looking to see if the current rules governing marketing and sales need further strengthening. We will be considering the Consumer Focus research as part of this process.”
Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) had until now been the most active doorstep seller, but the company recently announced that it was stopping the practice entirely. SSE had been found guilty of misleading 800,000 households about energy tariffs in a 2008 and 2009 door-to-door sales campaign.
British Gas, the UK’s largest energy provider, has also cut its doorstep salesforce in recent years from 1,200 to 300 but the company said it still believes there is a place for doorstep selling.
A British Gas spokesperson commented: “There are a significant number of households who do not use the internet or buy over the telephone, and for them doorstep selling can give access to the benefits of the competitive energy market.”
Moneyhighstreet comments: “With many companies putting their energy prices up, consumers are understandably angry about the possibility that they are being mis-sold energy products by doorstep salespeople.
“Because these salespeople earn commission when they sign a new customer, there’s an incentive for them to frame their offer in the best possible way – as has been found – sometimes even mislead them.
“The best way to find a cheaper tariff is to compare prices online using an independent price comparison site like Moneysupermarket.com or uSwitch.com – you’re not under pressure and you remain in control of the decision to change suppliers.”