Door-to-door energy selling is back – avoid a bad gas and electricity deal
Door-to-door energy salesmen are approaching thousands of households every day, seven years after the tactic led to a mis-selling scandal.
At least twelve small suppliers are engaging in the practice, either directly or through third-party brokers to sell gas and electricity deals, The Times has revealed.
Our advice on dealing with doorstep agents, whether it’s energy or washing gloves, is simple: politely decline any offers, shut the door and release the hounds (OK, you can skip that last tip).
To make sure you’ve got a fair energy deal, you’re better off running a comparison yourself.
Between 2011 and 2012, the Big Six were forced to stop door-to-door selling under pressure from consumer groups after rampant mis-selling was exposed.
They were fined £40m by the watchdog, Ofgem, for breaking face-to-face marketing laws. None have resumed the practice since.
Inexperienced agents were found to be giving households misleading or downright false information about the savings on offer.
Some customers even switched to a more expensive tariff after following faulty advice.
Doorstep selling is still legal and Ofgem allows it if deals are promoted in a “fair, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.”
If you feel you’ve been the victim of misleading doorstep selling, tell us about it. We're in your corner.
Which suppliers are doorstep selling?
Research by The Times found First Utility and Ovo Energy are paying commission for doorstep sales secured by switching site Money Expert.
Utilita and Octopus Energy are using their own salesmen.
Ofgem is currently investigating Economy Energy and E over possible mis-selling.
In total, the investigation found 12 suppliers are using the tactic, about a quarter of all household suppliers.
Who are Money Expert?
Money Expert (no relation to MoneySavingExpert) is a comparison site that is part of the same group as Simply Switch.
The company started using door-to-door selling nationwide last year and says its 150 salesmen now act for more than ten suppliers and land 700 sales a day.
It’s not clear, however, whether their comparison results cover the whole of the market or are completely impartial.
What do energy companies say?
Companies who use doorstep selling argue it is a good way to engage with consumers stuck on standard variable tariffs, often the elderly, who stand to gain the most switching.
These are the very people the Government has in its sights in its crackdown on the energy market.
First Utility defended door-to-door selling, saying it was “an effective way to help alert the millions of disengaged energy customers that are paying to much for their energy but that are harder to reach via online channels.”
Octopus Energy’s founder, Greg Jackson, insisted his agents used iPads to provide accurate savings estimates and said all sales were recorded.
He said: "We're testing door-to-door on a small scale, to see if we can reach the customers who have been paying Big Six rip-off tariffs for too long.
"In our limited trial to date, we've found many people really do want to discuss their energy bills. We use the latest technology to record every conversation, to track every agent and to ensure that we deliver accurate information. If people don't want to switch there and then, we are pleased to email them a quote so that they can make their decision at leisure."
Suppliers do seem to have taken pains to make sure the doorstep selling is transparent.
Money Expert’s Mike Rowe said its salesmen also used tablet computers to compare deals.
Agents are paid on commission for signing customers up to partner suppliers, which may not be the cheapest deals.
Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, however, blasted the tactic as an “imposition on people” and said it was “rife with bad practice.”