Energywatch lobbies for financial redress on mis-selling

Consumers who have been harassed by energy companies may soon be able to seek compensation for the distress and annoyance caused.

Consumer watchdog Energywatch is lobbying for amendments to marketing licence conditions for gas and electricity companies, which are due to expire in April this year.

According to the consumer watchdog, the existing conditions are not tough enough to tackle consumer complaints. Currently, consumers can demand compensation only if they have been cheated into switching to a more expensive energy supplier.

A spokesman for Energywatch says: “We are proposing that a quantifiable set of performance standards be set up. Our aim is to strengthen the system and make licence conditions tougher, so that suppliers can be held directly accountable for the activities of their sales staff.”

Last week, Energywatch released complaint figures about direct selling of gas and electricity in the period September to November 2001. The watchdog says that complaints about gas direct selling have increased by 13.4 per cent – those for electricity have grown by over ten per cent.

Npower has been named as the biggest offender in the mis-selling of electricity, and Seeboard in the misselling of gas. Last year, Ofgem twice warned npower to improve its sales agents’ practices. The second warning was issued as the number of complaints about the company was persistently above the industry average (MW October 4, 2001).

Ofgem is waiting for Energywatch’s December 2001 to February 2002 figures before it decides what, if any, action should be taken against npower under the existing licence conditions.

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