High pressure energy sellers suspended after A Spokesman Said investigates
High pressure sellers lying to drum up business for Utilita Energy have been suspended after an investigation by A Spokesman Said.
Lee Robinson told us he had to threaten to physically eject one doorstep salesman from his building after he wouldn’t take "No" for an answer.
Worse still, the pushy peddler was lying when he said that Lee’s landlord – Together Housing – had agreed to let them fit a smart meter in his home. They hadn’t.
Lee explains: "It was only when I challenged him that the agent reluctantly admitted this would mean changing energy supply to their company – Utilita.
"They claimed they would be cheaper than the existing supplier without even knowing who that was, so they cannot possibly know.
"I told them I wasn't interested and I won't entertain being put on the spot with deceitful or high pressure sales tactics.
"The agent then became aggressive towards myself and my partner, who is a vulnerable person.
"They only left when I demanded they leave before I threw them out of the apartment block myself.
"They are trying to scam people into unwittingly entering into a contract with them, in order to earn a commission."
Lee, of Elland, Yorkshire, contacted us to help warn other people who may be targeted.
Utilita's business model is to install free smart meters and get customers to sign up to a "highly competitive tariff." Mind you, they've also had to repay millions for overcharging customers.
They describe themselves as "the leading provider of smart Pay As You Go energy in Great Britain."
Top of the league... for complaints
There's something else they’re the leading provider of too: Complaints.
Last year Utilita constantly topped industry regulator Ofgem's complaints league table of medium-sized suppliers.
In the first quarter they had 5,685 per 100,000 customers. Next quarter it rose to 6,005 – three times as many as closest rival First Utility – in the third quarter 4,146 and in the last three months it rose again to 4,294.
In fact that was more complaints per 100,000 customers than even the Big Six suppliers (topped at the end of the year by Scottish Power on 2,813).
Utilita solemnly announces that it has "implemented an overhaul of how we deal with complaints" to address them more efficiently. So we're hoping it will give an efficient apology to Lee and his partner for their distress.
In the meantime, we contacted Together Housing who confirmed they have now taken action against Utilita Energy.
It told us in a statement that it was "aware of door to door sales agents from Utilita Energy approaching residents claiming they are working on behalf of Together Housing to fit smart meters.
"While Utilita do fit smart meters in partnership with Together when homes become empty, we do not cold call residents on smart meters or any energy issue.
"Together Housing also does not engage third party companies which operate door to door.
Staff have been suspended
"We reported this issue to Utilita today who have acted quickly and have suspended the staff involved pending a more detailed investigation.
"As always we would urge our residents to be careful who they let into their homes and to think carefully before signing up to any commercial contract."
We contacted Utilita Energy, who insisted mis-selling accounted for "a tiny percentage" of complaints it receives but confirmed two of its agents had been suspended while it carried out an investigation.
Its spokesperson told us: "These kind of allegations are extremely rare. We have robust monitoring processes for all our sales activities – in fact, all sales are verified by non commission-based members of staff, to prevent mis-selling."
We asked if they'd like to apologise to the people who felt hounded on their own doorstep, but the company declined to do that while it carried out the investigation.
As well as saying sorry for something clearly very distressing, we think Utilita should have a proper inquiry into the highly questionable tactic of door-to-door sales, which even the Big Six suppliers dropped because of mis-selling.
But with that mountain of complaints to get through we’re not holding our breath.
Have you been pressured by Utilita Energy or anyone else. Tell us your story – we’re here to help.
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