British Gas Trading is setting up its own doorstep selling operation in an attempt to stem the tide of customers switching to cheaper independent gas suppliers.
It will run a test in southern England aimed at signing up customers to its ValuePlus scheme, which offers discounts of up to 12 per cent to customers who pay by direct debit.
The gas giant will approach gas users face-to-face for the first time. If the test is successful, BGT could flood the country with thousands of doorstep sales people.
BGT will run the test in the South-east and South-west, where competition in the gas market was introduced last year. The company has already lost a quarter of its customers – nearly 500,000 gas users – in these areas to independent suppliers. The independents say doorstep selling is by far the most effective method of marketing gas.
In the four-week test, BGT will target 17,000 homes comprising existing customers and those who have deserted the company for less expensive rivals. BGT will recruit 30 doorsteppers for the test. They will promote ValuePlus, and tell customers about BGT’s push into electricity supply when the market is opened up next year.
Doorstep sellers working for independent gas companies have earned a poor reputation, with complaints flooding into consumer groups about misleading tactics.
But a BG spokesman says: “We want to make sure we are at the quality end. We’ll be writing in advance to customers about the visit. They’ll have the opportunity to opt out. We’ll do a lot of checking to make sure there are no problems. We have told the local police, trading standards officers and the Gas Consumers Council.”