npower fined for mis-selling
Npower has been fined £1.8 million for mis-selling energy contracts to people in their own homes.
The energy regulator Ofgem says npower, the third largest gas and electricity supplier in the UK with 6.9 million customers, left people at risk after it failed to take action over complaints about its door-to-door salespeople. The firm dismissed six members of its sales team earlier this year, but Ofgem says it allowed mis-selling to happen because it failed to fully follow-up complaints at the time they were made.
Ofgem rules state that people must be fully aware they are entering into a contract.
Sarah Harrison, managing director of corporate affairs at Ofgem, says the fine sends a clear message to npower and its competitors about ensuring people are not misled when dealing with doorstep sellers.
“Mis-selling undermines consumer confidence, but getting it right on the doorstep can help customers make effective choices in the energy market,” she adds. “This is why Ofgem’s energy supply market probe is committed to strengthening the doorstep selling rules.”
The regular plans to tighten rules about doorstep selling next year in order to further tackle mis-selling. It is considering forcing salespeople to provide written quotations comparing their offering with a customer’s current energy bills.
How to complain
If you wish to make a complaint, then you should take it up with the energy supplier in question first. However, if you want to find out what your rights are from an independent source, then you should contact Consumer Direct (08454 04 05 06).
Alternatively, if you energy supplier is unable to help you or your complaint is more than eight weeks old, you should contact The Energy Supply Ombudsman (0845 055 0760 or 01925 530263). It can take practical action to resolve disputes and can, in some cases, offer you financial compensation.
If you want information about how energy companies are regulated then you could contract Ofgem’s consumer affairs team (020 7901 7295).
The practice of a dishonest salesperson misrepresenting or misleading an investor about the characteristics of a product or service. For example, selling a person with no dependants a whole-of-life policy. There have been notable mis-selling scandals in the past, including endowment policies tied to mortgages, employees persuaded to leave final salary pensions in favour of money purchase pensions (which paid large commissions to salespeople) and payment protection insurance. There is no legal definition of mis-selling; rather the Financial Services Authority (FSA) issues clarifying guidelines and hopes companies comply with them.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.