MPs criticise energy firms for pushy doorstep-sales tactics

 

Energy companies are using "Del Boy" doorstep-sales techniques to pressurise consumers to switch their gas or electricity provider, with some door-to-door salesmen earning more than half of their pay through commission, according to MPs.

The all-party Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee claims to have been appalled by the behaviour of some of the power companies' doorstep sellers, and says that householders are confused by a vast array of tariffs. The number of different rates has risen from 180 to almost 400 in the past 18 months.

In a report published today, the committee said gas and electricity firms should pay compensation to consumers who were the victims of mis-selling. It urged the companies to put their own house in order without waiting for the industry's regulator, Ofgem, or the Government to act.

"We are worried that a lot of people are simply bamboozled by their bills and the vast array of different tariffs on offer," said Tim Yeo, the committee's Tory chairman.

He welcomed the decision by Scottish and Southern – one of the so-called "Big Six" energy companies – to suspend doorstep sales, adding: "The rest of the Big Six should ditch the Del Boy sales tricks and concentrate on giving customers the information they need to choose the correct contract."

The MPs added: "The level of tariff complexity that confronts consumers is unacceptable and the continued blight of mis-selling should have been taken in hand years ago. The possibility that a large number of consumers may have paid too much for their electricity or gas because of mis-selling on the doorstep should be examined at once and compensation paid where consumers have been misled by agents acting for the suppliers."

According to consumer groups, nine out of 10 people who have bought energy products on their doorstep say they would never do so again. Ofgem believes that up to 40 per cent of people who switch do not end up with a better deal.

The MPs also expressed concern that energy price "rise like a rocket and fall like a feather". They singled out Scottish Power for criticism, saying that customers who use the least energy will be hit hardest, and said the dominance of the "Big Six" required intervention by the Government and Ofgem.

Last week, Scottish and Southern became the third major supplier to raise prices this year when it announced an 18 per cent rise in gas prices and an 11 per cent increase in electricity charges. Two others, Eon and Npower, are reported to be planning steep rises.

Last night the Consumer Focus watchdog called for an immediate end to cold calling on the doorstep. "Organised confusion, pressured selling, misleading information – no market should be able to operate like that, and especially not one that provides an essential product," said Mike O'Connor, its chief executive. "Suppliers must stop cold-call sales and find an alternative that works for its customers."



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003