Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Don't be duped by fuel switch sharks

Devious energy salesmen are preying on vulnerable customers despite a
crackdown on doorstep selling by the regulator, consumer groups have warned.

Eight months after tough new rules were imposed, evidence is growing that
consumers are signing up to more expensive deals after being persuaded to
switch energy supplier by salesmen working on commission.
Around 2.5 million people switched supplier last year after being approached
on their doorstep, over the phone or in a public place such as a shopping
centre. In January, energy regulator ofgem introduced new regulations on doorstep
sales, forcing suppliers to provide a written estimate before a sale is
concluded. However, consumer groups claim that mis-selling is still rife.
A spokesman for Citizens Advice says: 'our advisers still see cases of
pressure-selling, many involving elderly or vulnerable customers.

'This includes misleading information about "savings" where people end up
with much higher bills and being transferred to a different supplier without
their knowledge or consent.' Rajan Antony, 54, from North-East London, was
persuaded to switch supplier to British Gas after 'persistent' phone calls
from a residnetial energy broker .
The entrepreneur says: 'I only agreed because the salesman promised that
British Gas prices were cheaper than our supplier's, southern electric.
'But after a few days, I checked British Gas's prices and discovered we
would actually be paying more - so we called them back and cancelled the
' I felt very annoyed because I felt as if I had been lied to.'
To make matters worse, Mr Antony then became locked in a dispute with
British Gas after the supplier demanded he pay a bill for £152.
The amount was only written off after Mr Antony contacted the company
chairman to complain. British Gas is now investigating.
Hannah Mummery, of Consumer Focus says: 'We are very concerned that
consumers are continuing to report being hit by bad sales practices. If any
company is encouraging their employees to break the rules and talk customers
into taking up an energy deal that leaves them worse off, there should be
strict action from the regulator.' Read more:

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