The news that E.On has been fined £12 million for a series of malpractices is a sobering reminder that we need to be vigilant when dealing with energy suppliers.
The Ofgem enquiry concluded that E.On had been mis-selling their products to customers over the phone and on their doorstep. Sadly, it seemed those who are most vulnerable in the country were targeted by sales representatives. In addition, E.On also failed to be clear with purchasers about what they are actually paying for. According to Ofgem, insufficient safeguards, dubious sales practices and lack of training have contributed to the problem.
Unfortunately, the incident with E.On is far from isolated. The reality is that almost £100 million worth of fines have been issued by Ofgem to energy suppliers over the last four years, with almost 40 per cent relating to the mis-selling of energy products. Since we are all energy consumers, it is vital that each of us have a way to protect ourselves against tricks and scams.
The most effective weapon against aggressive salespeople is to know your rights under the law. According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, you have a number of rights in the event of a salesperson calling upon your home, for example:
It is important to note that you have a right to say no, and you should not feel any pressure to sign up to a new plan. If they tell you that the offer is only available today or they can’t leave your house until you have signed a piece of paper, then be aware that these are unscrupulous and illegal sales tactics.
‘Slamming’ is a tactic that can often be used which is when users are mis-led as to why they are signing something. If you are asked to sign something in order to receive a quote, or to simply to prove that the salesperson knocked on your door, be wary. This can often be signing to switch without your consent in which case your existing supplier and the new supplier have a joint responsibility to sort this out.
Of course, salespeople often cold call potential customers by telephone. If you receive one of these calls, remember that you have certain rights under the law regarding the pre-purchase information they give you.
You should be given an accurate product description, the total price of the product or service, any rights to cancel, the length of the contract, and any delivery costs. Do not give your payment details unless you are happy and absolutely certain of the above.
Apart from aggressive sales techniques, another common complaint involves criminals posing as representatives from energy suppliers to sell you illegitimate and useless products. Such products usually take the form reduced priced credits (i.e. pay £100 now for this top up card and you will get £150 off your next bill), or gadgets that will supposedly reduce your energy consumption. Avoid buying them because these are just scams from heartless criminals.
Be vigilant. Switching energy supplier is great for saving money, but don’t become a victim of nasty tactics forcing you to do so.