Phone cold-callers put the heat on customers

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Energy telesales are now as common as door-to-door selling, and one in five people contacted by telephone feel that they have been misled or pressurised, according to the independent gas and electricity consumer watchdog, energywatch.

The consumer group says telesales complaints account for one in five of all mis-selling complaints it receives, double the rate of 18 months ago.

Allan Asher, the chief executive of energywatch, said: "We are seeing evidence of 'telefraud', with salesmen misrepresenting who they are or how much consumers can save. Our evidence shows that hundreds of people are being duped or pressurised by telephone scams. Yet consumers have far less protection from poor telephone selling than they do from doorstep sales."

The energy industry said last May that it would consider extending its Code of Practice to combat telephone mis-selling. However, energywatch says the industry is no closer to giving consumers better protection.

"Our research has shown that telesales is now as common as doorstep selling and causing great distress and inconvenience to consumers," said Mr Asher. "It is quite ridiculous that the industry's flagship Code of Practice for marketing does not cover telesales."

Customers have complained about energy salesmen tying up telephone lines for hours to force customers to sign up for energy; being rude and aggressive during telesales calls; lying about who they are, some claiming to be from energywatch; and signing up consumers to a new energy supplier even when they refuse the sales pitch or only agree to more information.

Mr Asher said this week that complaints may rocket as the industry switches its attention to telesales as a cheaper, less regulated method of winning new customers.

If consumers do not want cold callers, they can have their details removed from lists by contacting the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 070 0707 and following instructions. Or visit:

Consumers subjected to telephone harassment, poor advice or telephone tricks by energy salesmen should contact energywatch on 08459 060708.

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