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

News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

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

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor