Could consultation end smart meter stealth sales?Which? asks for stricter licence conditions

18 August 2011

Smart meter challenge

We're asking energy companies to sign up to our 'no selling, just installing' smart meter challenge. 

As the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) publishes its consultation on smart meter installation, Which? asks the government to stop companies sending 'stealth salespeople' into customers' homes.

The government wants all homes in the UK to have a smart meter by 2020, and many energy companies have started installing them in homes already. However, Which? is concerned that some companies have seen this as an opportunity to send salesmen to people's homes during the installation.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? said: 'Given that consumers will foot the £11.3 billion bill for the smart meter roll-out, we don't think energy companies should use the installation as an opportunity to push new products and services.'

Today's consultation proposes that energy companies who plan to sell during the installation should obtain prior consent from customers if they want to send salespeople around during a smart meter installation. However, Which? wants to see a more robust commitment to consumer protection with a 'no sales' clause.

The smart meter challenge

In July Which? launched the 'No selling, just installing' challenge for energy companies. We challenged them to commit to a simple installation that would not involve any sales activity.

Richard Lloyd said: 'Our research shows that 93% of people would not let an energy salesperson into their home, and 31% wouldn't open the door to them. Given that, we'd like to see the government committed to a responsible roll-out that takes customer views into account.'

So far, seven companies have signed up to the challenge, including Ovo, Ecotricity and Good Energy. 

The 'big six' energy companies have yet to sign up. Together, they supply energy to over 98% of domestic energy customers.

Widespread energy mis-selling

The energy industry has been plagued by widespread mis-selling, with Scottish and Southern Energy rapped for doorstep mis-selling in May this year. At the moment four out of the big six are under investigation by the watchdog Ofgem, accused of possible mis-selling.

Two of the larger energy companies have even agreed to suspend doorstep selling recently in response to consumer feedback. Which? has joined other consumer groups in calling for an outright ban on doorstep selling to try and stem the flow of misleading sales.

By allowing energy companies to sell during smart meter installations, DECC risks opening the floodgates to another wave of energy company mis-selling.

Find out more about smart meters, and the ideal smart meter installation by watching our smart meter video. 

Which? energy campaigns

Which? campaigns to make people's lives fairer, simpler and safer. We're currently campaigning on energy issues such as the Green Deal, confusing energy tariffs, and smart meters. To find out more about our campaigns, follow Which? Action on Twitter or facebook.