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

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links