Scottish and Southern Energy loses sales appeal

 

A "big six" energy company found guilty of using doorstep salesmen to mislead potential customers lost an appeal against conviction today.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London rejected a challenge by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), announcing that they were "not persuaded that this conviction was unsafe".

In May last year the company was found guilty of two counts of "engaging in a misleading commercial practice" in a prosecution brought by Surrey County Council Trading Standards.

The prosecution was believed to be the first of its kind against one of the big six energy firms.

Following today's decision, SSE is now due to be sentenced at Guildford Crown Court in Surrey on May 4.

Surrey's trading standards said salesmen from Scottish and Southern Energy had used a sales script and a print out to convince customers to switch suppliers.

After a five-day trial at Guildford Crown Court, SSE was found guilty of the two counts of taking part in misleading selling practices relating to the script between September 2008 and July 2009.

At the time of its conviction SSE said it wanted to reassure customers, and potential customers, that the case related to sales aids used in February 2009 which were no longer in use, and added that it was "confident that our sales processes continue to be fair and responsible".

Steve Playle, of Surrey's trading standards, said after today's ruling that as a result of the case five of the big six, including SSE, have now stopped doorstep selling altogether.

He described it as a classic case of "David and Goliath" - with SSE having a "turnover something like £28 billion" and Surrey Trading Standards having a budget of "just £2 million".

Mr Playle called on SSE to write to every customer they signed up using the "illegal script" to "make a serious offer of compensation".

Surrey County Council said the sales script led householders to believe the salesperson knew they were overpaying with their current energy supplier, when in fact they did not have such information.

Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council's cabinet member for community safety, said: "This case shone a spotlight on the dubious practice of doorstep selling.

"Five of the big six energy firms have now stopped doing it because they recognise it's not in the best interests of their businesses or their customers.

"We'll continue our work in ensuring people, especially the vulnerable, get a fair deal.

"Our advice, as always, remains the same - never deal with cold calling doorstep traders."

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said in response to the Court of Appeal's decision: "This is an important judgment for consumers and hats off to Surrey Trading Standards for its persistence and dogged pursuit of SSE through the courts."

She said: "Consumers need clear rules on selling energy to be burned into the minds of energy companies and to know that these will be enforced vigorously.

"Only then can consumer trust start to grow again in this market.

"Doorstep energy selling could work if done properly, but the truth is that the behaviour of companies means that it has been thoroughly discredited.

"Five of the big six have already dropped it and now we would call on E.ON to see sense and stop it immediately."

Stephen Forbes, SSE's director of sales, marketing and energy services, said: "We are very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal today, having lodged what we believe were very strong grounds to have the Crown Court verdicts overturned.

"We will now consider our next steps, but it is highly likely we will not seek to take this issue any further.

"This case was initially brought over two years ago and since then we have ceased all doorstep sales activity in Great Britain, becoming the first energy supplier to stop commission-based doorstep selling of electricity and gas.

"We have also implemented a sales guarantee for household energy customers which will ensure that any customer who shows they switched their energy supply to SSE after being given inaccurate information, or being misled, will have any resulting financial loss made good.

"This guarantee gives additional reassurance for customers choosing SSE as their energy supplier in the future.

"High standards in energy sales are absolutely essential and the recent steps we have taken demonstrate SSE's commitment to them."

SSE will be sentenced for the offences at Guildford Crown Court in May.

PA

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Financial Analyst - Forecasting - Yorkshire

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...

Business Architect - Bristol - £500 per day

£500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup