Julian Knight: When energy firms call say: 'No thanks, bye'

Ofgem is investigating the sales practices of several energy firms.

There is a longstanding problem with people being shifted between providers without their knowledge or lied to by salespeople. It's inevitable wherever you have profit-hungry firms and commission-incentivised salespeople. We've seen it countless times in financial services – think pensions mis-selling for one. Let's hope Ofgem's investigation is conducted quickly, and if firms are found guilty they are fined substantially: the watchdog has the power to dock 10 per cent of their turnover.

The best way to avoid mis-selling is not to get into a conversation with a salesperson. The simple response is always to say no thanks and good day. But this doesn't stop you being ripped off by the energy firms.

Consumer Focus put it well last week when it responded to a rise in EDF's prices: "It's worrying to see suppliers make immediate moves to pass on small increases in their costs when for months they have failed to pass on significant cuts in energy wholesale costs. Price hikes across the industry are not warranted, as these huge falls in wholesale prices have simply not been shared with consumers."

Too right, and what has Ofgem done about this continuing rip-off affecting many more than mis-selling? Absolutely nothing.

Relieve those tortuous queues

A visit to my local post office is always tortuous. Even avoiding peak times such as first thing in the morning and lunchtimes, I still get stuck in a massive queue. Buying some foreign currency took about 20 minutes the other day as the staffer – obviously cajoled by management – tried to sell travel insurance and the post office credit card to every customer. So busy was he trying to push the services on me that he didn't notice that he had counted me out too few euros.

There seems to be another reason for the terribly slow service. The clue comes from a campaign being run by Link, the UK cash machine network. It runs 740 free-to-use cash machines in Britain's post office network which are an invaluable alternative to the pernicious fee-charging machines which have sprang up in poorer areas, and in newsagents and even pubs.

Up to four million post office card account holders are barred from using the machines, which means they have to queue for their cash, prolonging waiting time for everyone else. The previous government decided to impose this restriction on post office card account holders – heaven knows why.

Now Link would like to extend its free-to-use ATMs into lower-income areas – deserted by the mainstream banks. But to do this and boost usage they need post office card account holders to have access too. The coalition needs to think about this. At the least it would reduce those queues – but then staff would be freer to try to foist more financial products on me.

Clodesdale not on their own

It's not just the Clydesdale bank – or Clodesdale as one reader nicknamed it – which is guilty of miscalculating its customers' mortgages and then demanding they make up the shortfall. The Financial Ombudsman said last week it had received a wave of complaints from consumers about their lenders' inability to add up. In some instances, borrowers had received an incorrect mortgage repayment amount in their original mortgage offer and then paid it in good faith only for the lender to come back later and say it had got its sums wrong.

With the reputation of financial services akin to that of the Pakistan cricket team, many would suspect foul play. But the most likely reason is good old- fashioned administrative incompetence. If you have suffered this, I'd like to hear from you as we need to name those firms which are getting it so wrong. Isn't it time the Financial Services Authority got its feet wet over this and checked to ensure that all lenders' admin is now up to speed?

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

    £30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

    Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

    £55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor