Press releases

Scottish and Southern Energy fined £1.25 m in Trading Standards prosecution

trading standardsThe Trading Standards Institute (TSI) welcomes the news that Scottish and Southern Energy has finally been sentenced, one year on from the original guilty verdicts.

The utility company was sentenced today (Fri) to a fine of £1.25 million on the charge of engaging in misleading selling practises.

Ron Gainsford, the TSI chief executive, said: "Surrey County Council Trading Standards have done a fantastic job in bringing one of the Big Six to justice, marking a real milestone in our longstanding fight against doorstep selling that was affecting particularly the more vulnerable in their own homes.

"This is a prime example of local trading standards successfully fighting a case of national interest, proving wrong those who have doubted the profession’s ability to take on responsibilities from central Government and the Office of Fair Trading in the new consumer landscape."

TSI has been campaigning for an end to cold calling and the effective creation of No Cold Calling Zones for many years. An extensive household survey carried out by the TSI revealed as far back as 2002 that 95.7% of householders did not want doorstep sellers cold calling.

TSI announced its aim to achieve a ban of energy doorstep selling via a change of practice at its 2009 Conference, when the problem was debated by Energy Retail Association, Ofgem, Age Concern and Help the Aged (now merged to Age UK). Ofgem had earlier said that 52% of those switching as a result of a doorstep sale changed to a higher tariff.

Steve Playle, Surrey County Council Trading Standards investigations and enforcement manager, said: "This was a real David versus Goliath battle which resulted in a victory for consumers everywhere. It should send a message to the energy industry that deceptive, misleading and illegal sales tactics are not acceptable.

"Hopefully this fine will serve as a reminder that no matter how competitive the market, companies cannot lose sight of the law. If they do, trading standards teams will be there to straighten them out. The case shone a spotlight on the dubious practice of doorstep selling. Our advice to consumers remains the same as ever - never deal with cold calling doorstep traders."

After the sentence, Steve said: "This must be the biggest ever fine in the country for a Trading Standards prosecution. Surrey County Council Trading Standards has shone a much-needed spotlight on the murky world of doorstep-energy selling.

"The primary benefit of this ground-breaking case is the fact that it’s led to five of the Big Six energy companies stopping doorstep sales altogether. The defence counsel Andrew Mitchell QC complimented Surrey County Council Trading Standards by stating that this was indeed a revolutionary prosecution."

Notes for editors:

Scottish and Southern Energy was found guilty on two counts of taking part in misleading selling practices relating to a sales script between September 2008 and July 2009, in 10 May 2011. The company was found not guilty on five other similar matters.

Scottish and Southern Energy’s appeal against the conviction was rejected on 16 March 2012.

The Trading Standards Institute has been calling for a ban on energy doorstep selling since 2009 in the face of growing evidence of high pressure selling and misselling tactics, that were shown to be pushing consumers to switch to a higher tariff.

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact TSI press office on 08456089430 or pressoffice@tsi.org.uk

Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

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.

TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. wwww.tradingstandards.gov.uk