900 jobs axed as SSE scraps its doorstep sales force

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Scottish and Southern Energy yesterday scrapped doorstep selling, axing 900 jobs in the process.

The energy company said it acted after public confidence swung against the activity. Shares in the company slipped 0.7 per cent to 1,413p yesterday.

"Confidence in the way companies sell energy on the doorstep, and the way in which salespeople are remunerated, is low," SSE said in a statement. Two months ago the firm was found guilty of using misleading doorstep selling practices in a case brought against it by Surrey County Council.

It was found guilty of tricking people into switching from their existing energy firms, between September 2008 and July 2009. Its doorstep sellers had claimed people were paying too much to their current suppliers when this was not the case. The energy giant is currently appealing against the verdict.

About 45 per cent of SSE's total customer gains in Britain came from doorstep sales, it said. The rest came from telephone, venue, online, direct mail and partnership sales, which will all continue.

The move will impact SSE's market share, the firm admitted, but would improve its reputation in the long term. Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE generation and supply director, said: "The steps we are taking may have some short-term impact on the number of customers we gain, but we believe that this will be outweighed by the long-term benefit from deploying the right products and services in the right way."

Audrey Gallacher, the director of energy at Consumer Focus, welcomed the move. "Cold-call doorstep sales have been a continuous problem since the competitive energy market was introduced. Suppliers have an appalling track record on mis-selling and have failed to offer their best deals face-to-face, leaving a huge number of customers switching to a worse deal."

She revealed that Consumer Focus has been in discussions with energy firms in the past week to put an end to all cold calling. "We hope that SSE's announcement will encourage other suppliers to end cold-calling sales on the doorstep."