One of the UK’s “big six” energy companies has been found guilty of using doorstep salesmen to mislead potential customers.
The salesmen from Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) used a sales script and a print out to convince customers to switch suppliers, Surrey CC trading standards said.
A consumer group said the conviction, thought to be the first of its kind, should serve as a “wake-up call” to the industry.
Trading standards investigating officer Steve Playle said: “When we first became aware of the sales script being used by Scottish and Southern Energy we were convinced that it overstepped the mark and was misleading to potential customers.
“A doorstep seller had a print out which he claimed showed consumers were paying too much with their current energy supplier, but the print out did not show this. The seller didn’t actually have a clue but the sales script was cleverly designed to put potential customers on the back foot and to open the door to a sale.
“Energy supply by the big six firms is obviously highly competitive but it is a complex market with hundreds of different tariffs that make meaningful price comparisons quite difficult.”
SSE was was found guilty at Guildford Crown Court of two counts of taking part in misleading selling practices relating to the sales script between September 2008 and July 2009. The company was found not guilty on five other similar matters.
The firm will be sentenced on May 27.
Audrey Gallacher, head of energy at Consumer Focus, said: “Misleading doorstep energy sales have been a nightmare for consumers for years, leaving many switching to a worse energy deal.
“This verdict must sound a wake-up call to the industry. Energy firms have had years to sort out this issue and yet consumers are still misled and tricked on the doorstep.”
An SSE spokewoman said: “We are clearly disappointed with the verdict today and are now considering our legal options, which includes the possibility of an appeal.
“We want to reassure customers, and potential customers, that this case relates to sales aids used in February 2009, which are not in use today, and we are confident that our sales processes continue to be fair and responsible.”