Although suppliers have recently adopted new policies in a bid to make the domestic energy market simpler, clearer and fairer, many customers still find themselves mislead by some of the tactics used by unscrupulous energy salespeople.
Energy salespeople may visit you at home, contact you by phone or approach you in a public venue such as a supermarket. In all cases, it can be useful to be aware of the rules that help protect consumers against aggressive or misleading sales tactics.
The following are some key things you need to know in the event you are approached by a salesperson claiming to be from an energy company.
Very few energy suppliers sell energy on the doorstep. Those that do have signed a code of practice with the Association of Energy Suppliers and are obliged to follow certain rules regarding responsible selling. In the event of a salesperson calling at your home, keep in mind the following:
-Telling you the offer is only available today. -Asking you to sign something in order to receive a quote. -Telling you that you need to sign something to confirm they visited you. -Telling you that you need to sign something before they can leave your home. -Telling you that you need to sign something before they can read your meter.
If you’re approached by a salesperson while you’re out and about, many of the rules regarding doorstep selling apply. Some of the things you can do to protect yourself include:
Receiving a call from a salesperson by telephone is also known as cold-calling and is a form of distance selling. You have certain rights under the law regarding distance selling practices. If you agree to switch supplier during a distance selling call, you usually have a cooling off period within which you can change your mind without penalty.
You also have certain legal rights regarding the pre-purchase information salespeople are required to give you before you agree to enter into a contract. The information should include:
Do not give your payment details unless you are completely convinced of the veracity of the above.
Whichever way you’re approached by a salesperson, remember that you are not obliged to discuss your electricity and gas needs with them – politely tell them you’re not interested and they should leave you alone. If they call on you at home, they must leave if you ask them to. Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations, you can call the police if they refuse to leave when asked.
If you do decide to agree to sign up to the offer being presented to you, the salesperson must make sure to:
You’re unlikely to be able to get a refund if you’ve unwittingly bought something from a doorstep salesperson. You would need to find the person and take them to court, which can be difficult if they provided false credentials.
If you’ve been switched to another supplier without your consent, you can speak to either your old or new supplier – both suppliers should treat the switch as an erroneous transfer and reinstate your old account.
If you’ve been mis-sold an energy tariff, the first step should be to complain to your energy supplier. Your supplier should have a procedure to deal with complaints, which typically includes:
Your supplier should send you a letter of deadlock if they are unable to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. You can then choose to take the complaint further by contacting the Energy Ombudsman. If you do not receive a letter, you will need to wait at least eight weeks from the date you first make your complaint before contacting the Ombudsman. If you are classed as a vulnerable energy customer, you may be able to get extra help with your complaint.