From today (18 January 2010) energy suppliers will need to provide customers with written estimates before any direct sales are concluded. This is designed to help customers compare the tariff they have been offered with their current deal.
The move comes in response to Ofgem’s Energy Supply Probe. A survey for Ofgem’s probe showed that more than one in two people switching did so in response to contact with a salesperson. However, the survey found that many who switch on the doorstep inadvertently move to more expensive tariffs perhaps because they are misled or unable to accurately compare tariffs. Staggeringly, the Ofgem survey found that 48% of gas switchers and 42% of electricity switchers ended up paying more as a result of a direct sales approach. Even worse, the survey found that vulnerable and prepayment meter consumers are more likely to switch via this route and so were particularly disadvantaged.
What we think:
Deal with doorstep energy salespeople at your peril. They have no requirement to offer you the best deal or even a better one. The Ofgem probe found that many customers who switch via a doorstep salesman end up on a more expensive tariff. While we welcome any new measures that may help prevent customers getting ripped off, these measures will not help get anyone secure the best energy deals.TheEnergyShop.com noted 3 key reasons why new rules will not help doorstep switchers get the best deals.
Firstly, energy supplier agents represent just one company. They do not have access to all the best deals for any particular customer.
Secondly, and more importantly, the best deals are only available over the Internet for customers who pay by monthly direct debit. These deals are not in any case available to doorstep switchers.
Finally, energy suppliers do not subscribe to a code of conduct that requires them to make 100% unbiased or comprehensive comparisons. It is questionable whether the comparative quotes provided under the new rules will be up to date, accurate or comprehensive.
To help consumers avoid the pitfalls of dealing with doorstep energy salespeople, TheEnergyShop.com has put together a 5-point checklist to help customer avoid getting ripped off on the doorstep.
If you want to entertain doorstep sales people then, if nothing else, do not switch on the first visit. Get the written quotation first, check out whether it really is a better deal by using an online price comparison website next, and then only switch at a later date if the deal really is right for you.
Tips to Avoid Getting Ripped Off at the Doorstep
- If you are approached by a doorstep salesperson first check their identity. They should carry an official company badge giving their name and the company that they represent. Take a written note of these details.
- Get the written quotation before making any decision to switch. Once you have the quotation DO NOT get pressurised into signing up there and then. Instead, arrange for the agent to call back at a later date to suit you.
- Check out the quote you have been given using a Consumer Focus accredited price comparison website such as TheEnergyShop.com. The sites are 100% impartial, show all deals from all suppliers, and are regularly audited to ensure that they are accurate and up to date.
- Do NOT show the salesperson a copy of your energy bill or allow them to come in to read your meter. These have been some of the tricks used by unscrupulous salespeople to get important details about your supply and to switch you without your approval.
- If the salesperson offers you a special deal that you can’t get anywhere else be extremely careful. If you can’t find the deal on a price comparison site it either doesn’t exist or it is extremely expensive meaning the energy supplier doesn’t want you to see how it compares.