The company is highlighting a raft of customer service commitments on Twitter in light of the fine, which is the largest the regulator has made. SSE posted the following message on the micro-blogging site earlier this morning (3 April): “We’re sorry that we let some customers down and have taken action to put things right:”
The company is also promoting a YouTube video of William Morris, managing director of retail, a division set up last year in response to early warnings from Ofgem about its sales process, to allay concerns that incidents of mis-selling could happen again. Additionally, a print campaign is set to launch later this month apologising for what has happened and asking customers to get in touch if they have any concerns.
The watchdog said the firm was guilty of “failures at every stage of the sales process” across SSE’s telephone, in-store and doorstep selling activities – the company stopped doorstep sales in 2011, but allowed mis-selling in-stores and over the phone to continue. It found management failed to pay enough attention to new regulations in 2009 and 2010, which allowed the mis-selling to take place.
In a separate statement SSE said: “SSE is deeply regretful that breaches occurred and apologises unreservedly to any customers who have been affected by sales activity which ran counter to the values and culture of the company. It has taken important lessons on board and has transformed its approach to sales to ensure that it will not fall short of the standards all of its customers deserve.”
The move comes amid the energy firm’s high-profile campaign to promote a pledge to give customers £20 off their bill if it fails to meet new customer service commitments. It marks the start of a year-long push to bring the brand’s customer-focused credentials into “sharper focus”.
The investigation into SSE’s sales practices is the second of four that were launched by Ofgem in 2010. Last month EDF Energy agreed to pay £4.5m to hep vulnerable customers for misleading sales claims. investigations into Scottish Power, Npower and E.ON are ongoing.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement, said: “In order to restore trust in the energy market suppliers must comply with their obligations and play it straight with consumers.
“Today’s fine sends a clear message to suppliers that Ofgem will hold to account those companies which fail to treat consumers fairly. It is time for the energy industry to take note and get behind Ofgem’s reforms to rebuild trust and make the market simpler, clearer and fairer for consumers.”