Press releases

Energy firms guarantee to respect consumers who say no to cold callers

Fed up consumers who say no to receiving cold calls have today won assurances from energy firms that they will no longer be bothered on the doorstep.

Following lengthy campaigning by energy watchdog Consumer Focus and the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) the Big Six energy companies have said they are now committed to respecting the wishes of people who live in recognised ‘no cold calling zones’ or display signs saying no to cold callers.

Evidence has shown that it has been routine practice for energy agents to ignore householders’ requests not to receive unsolicited calls, even when they live in a No Cold Calling Zone or display a sticker outside their home warning off doorstep sellers.(1)

Research by the energy regulator Ofgem in 2008 revealed that just under half of customers who switched supplier in response to a direct sales approach ended up on a worse deal. (2) This prompted the introduction of new protections around energy sales so that when consumers sign up to a new deal on the doorstep they must receive a price comparison to prove the deal being offered is better than their existing one. In addition a Consumer Focus survey in July 2009 revealed that nearly seven out of 10 consumers who had received a direct sales call from an energy supplier rated the experience as negative and a third described the experience as intimidating.  (3)

Consumer Focus and TSI say that energy companies should have strict penalties for any sales-staff who break the commitment on cold callers. If consumers still receive cold calls at their door from energy suppliers despite clearly displaying a sign requesting not to do so, they should complain directly to the energy firm in question and contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

Audrey Gallacher, energy expert for Consumer Focus, said:

'If householders clearly say they don’t want salespeople to call, energy companies should assume they mean it. Whether people display a sticker saying they live in a No Cold Calling Zone or scribble a sign on the back of a piece of paper and stick it in the window, energy companies should respect their wishes.

'Energy salespeople and their firms have had a poor reputation for years because many have not shown basic respect to people on their own doorsteps. This is a victory for common sense. Energy firms should stick to their promise but if people continue to get cold calls from salespeople, they should contact Consumer Direct and complain to the company in question.'

Brian Smith, crime and disorder lead officer at TSI, said:

'The energy companies’ recognition of the signage and No Cold Calling Zones will assist Trading Standards and the Police in their fight against doorstep crime and rogue traders.  It gives a positive lead in the business sector and should be seen as an example of good practice and ethical behaviour by all companies that cold call consumers in their homes.'

'No Cold Calling Zones, launched by TSI in 2005, have been growing in popularity over the years, but there remains a hard core of salesmen, deliberately ignoring the wishes of residents in these areas.  While we have some concern over which NCCZs will deem to be 'recognised' by the energy companies, this is a very welcome step forward.  NCCZs and door signage is not just designed to deter rogues; a major aim is to protect citizens, especially the vulnerable, from feeling pressured in their homes by salesmen. TSI is firmly of the view that No means No.'

Notes to Editors:

1. Information request to energy suppliers by Consumer Focus in July 2009.

2. In 2008 the Regulator Ofgem launched a probe in to the retail energy markets. Research found that 42% of electricity customers and 48% of Gas customer who switched in response to direct marketing ended up on a worse deal.

3. In July 2009 ICM Omnibus questioned 1008 adults on behalf of Consumer Focus looking at consumer attitudes to direct selling.

The 2010 EnergySure Code update, agreed by British Gas, EDF Energy, E-ON, NPower, Scottish Power and SSE says that Sales Agents will not call on premises in recognised no cold calling zones where there is a message prominently displayed from the Consumer in the form of a written note or sticker. Members will recognise Local Authority no cold calling zones as lawful where they meet the requirements of proportionality as set out by the Office of Fair Trading in their letter to the Association and Local Authorities dated February 2008. A further commitment by Suppliers stipulates that where a Consumer indicates through a visible, clearly worded and unambiguous notice displayed on a property that they do not wish to receive uninvited doorstep sales callers, the Sales Agent will not call on that property.

Consumer Focus is the independent champion for consumers in the UK, created from the merger of energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (including the Scottish and Welsh Consumer Councils). Consumer Focus is the voice of the consumer, and works to secure a fair deal on their behalf.

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. The TSI press office can be contacted on 0845 608 9430.