Energy regulator Ofgem and consumer watchdog Energywatch are at loggerheads over the number of complaints about the high-pressure selling techniques, including direct selling, used by energy providers.
According to Ofgem, the number of complaints is decreasing. Energywatch insists that such complaints are on the rise. Energywatch is planning to launch a consumer campaign on January 30, to talk about sales malpractice.
An Energywatch spokesman says: “The energy companies’ misselling and sales malpractice form part of a growing scandal and that is what our campaign will talk about.”
A recent press release issued by Ofgem claims: “Fewer than one in every thousand transfers [of energy supplier] result in a complaint about direct selling.” A spokesman for Ofgem insists that the figures provided by Energywatch show a decline in complaints of this nature.
Energywatch policy adviser Dr Sebastian Eyre says: “The number of complaints did fall during the summer, but the explanation is the merger of the Gas Consumers’ Council and some parts of Ofgem to form Energywatch. It would possibly be misleading to say that there is a downward trend in the number of complaints about sales malpractice.”
Last year, Ofgem gave two warnings to electricity provider npower to improve the practices of its sales agents. The second was issued as the number of complaints about the company remained persistently above the industry average (MW October 4, 2001).