Gas and electricity Updated:
Energy provider SSE says it has put aside £5 million to compensate customers who were wrongly persuaded to switch their gas and electricity supply to the company on their doorstep.
From January, the provider is implementing a sales guarantee for household energy customers under which anyone who shows that they switched their energy supply to SSE after being given inaccurate information or being misled will have any resulting financial loss made good.
The guarantee will apply to any household energy sale made by SSE since October 2009, when the industry watchdog Ofgem placed new obligations on energy suppliers to make sure sales activities are conducted in a fair and professional manner.
From late January onwards, SSE will write to all 400,000 of its existing customers who it signed up through the doorstep sales channel between October 2009 and July 2011 to make them aware of the guarantee and to let them know what they need to do if they believe they have suffered any financial loss.
A sales guarantee information line (0845 0707 388) has been set up and a helpline will become fully operational in late January, when SSE starts to write to customers.
While admitting it is not possible to predict precisely how many customers may have suffered financially as a result of switching energy supplier, the provider believes that around £5 million should be sufficient to meet any claims.
SSE became the first energy supplier in Britain to call a halt to commission-based doorstep selling of gas and electricity in July.
In another attempt to build trust with its customers, the firm is also currently piloting an Annual Energy Review which would help ensure that customers are on the right tariff and payment method to suit their needs.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, generation and supply director of SSE, said good service starts with the sales process and if customers have suffered a loss as a result of that process, it will make good that loss.
"We have been saying for some time that energy is a significant purchase and the sales process rightly requires increasingly significant customer safeguards," he added.
"This guarantee, and the retrospective application of it, is a practical demonstration of putting words into action."
The move has been welcomed by Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, who said it is only fair that the firm should hold its hands-up on any bad selling practices that have happened, and refund customers who have lost out as a result.
"This step should help people to claim back any money they lost without having to go through the Energy Ombudsman, which they would have to do otherwise.
"SSE has taken the action that its customers want to see in ending further unwanted doorstep selling.
"We now need to see E.ON following in the steps of the rest of the Big Six and stopping this unwanted sales practice, which has left millions of people switched to a worse deal on the doorstep."
Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.
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