Salesman jailed over bogus electricity contracts

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The Independent Online

The first-ever prison sentence for the mis-selling of domestic gas and electricity has been handed down.

Samad Hussain was jailed for 12 months after he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and other related offences in relation to the mis-selling of Virgin Energy contracts in Enfield, north London.

The judge at Wood Green crown court heard how £48,000 in commission passed through a bank account set up by Hussain after signatures were forged on bogus gas and electricity supply contracts.

At least 1,000 false accounts are thought to have been set up through Sterling Direct, the doorstep sales company employed to win new customers by Virgin Energy, part of the French-owned EDF Energy.

Trading standards officials in Enfield became suspicious after receiving a large number of complaints from householders at the same time and they raided the offices of Sterling Direct in Leamington and Barking, east London.

Hussain, who worked for Sterling Direct, pleaded guilty to six charges including obtaining money transfers by deception from Virgin Energy, which paid commissions of up to £36 a household, thinking they had been signed up as new customers. The judge said Hussain had not personally forged energy contracts but had been part of a "wider web of criminality". Two of his accomplices are thought to have fled to Pakistan.

Allan Asher, chief executive of the consumer group Energywatch, said the jail sentence "sent a very strong signal that energy mis-selling will not be tolerated". Energywatch received 13,000 complaints last year about mis-selling, of which one in 10 related to forged signatures.