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.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf