Today Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has announced it is to suspend all doorstep sales with immediate effect.
The company, which has been plagued by doorstep mis-selling scandals, has decided that ‘commission-based doorstep selling is no longer an effective way to gain customers for the long-term’. They cite lack of customer confidence in doorstep energy sales, and a growing need for objective information, as key reasons for their decision.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said:
‘Very few people think energy suppliers are trustworthy, so it’s good news that SSE is listening to consumers and trying to restore its reputation. As energy suppliers consider their policies on doorstep selling, it’s important that they don’t simply shift their efforts to other forms of cold calling.’
‘We found that almost half (44%) of people have been phoned by an energy company in the past 12 months, and six in ten felt pressured to switch, so suppliers should be focusing on better value products and customer service, rather than hard-selling.’
Other types of energy sales
SSE has made it clear that despite potential losses of over 900 jobs, many of its salespeople will be redeployed to other areas of the business. Phone sales, direct mail and online sales will continue as before. They are also exploring other marketing methods such as sponsorship, to grow their customer base.
They are also planning to establish a network of ‘community-based energy advisors’ who will be trained to give people advice on household electricity and gas as well as energy efficiency measures. Although these advisors will be able to sell SSE products to customers who want them, they will be governed by a new code of conduct, and will not be paid commission for any sales made.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, generation and supply director of SSE, said:
‘Although the steps we are taking may have some short-term impact on the number of customers we gain in the Great Britain market, we believe that this will be outweighed by the long-term benefit from deploying the right products and services in the right way.’
SSE’s history of mis-selling
In June Which? called for SSE to stop using questionable sales tactics, after it was revealed that they planned to appeal against a conviction for doorstep mis-selling. A Surrey Trading Standards court case had ruled that the sales scripts used by their doorstep salespeople were misleading.
SSE’s sales problems didn’t end there. After a tip-off from a Which? reader, we discovered that marketing materials being used by SSE to sell energy in Marks and Spencer stores were potentially misleading. SSE claimed they had come ‘top’ in the Which? energy satisfaction survey, when in fact they had come fourth.
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