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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

    Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

    £30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

    Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot