Scottish and Southern Energy was today fined £1.25 million for using doorstep sellers to trick people into switching energy supplier.
The punishment marks the end of a landmark prosecution by Surrey County Council Trading Standards that was the first of its kind against one of the ‘big six’ energy firms.
Trading Standards officers doggedly pursued the energy giant after discovering its sales agents were using misleading sales scripts on people’s doorsteps.
The sellers claimed to have information showing that households were paying too much with their current supplier. In reality they had no such information.
Scottish and Southern Energy was found guilty at Guildford Crown Court Court in May 2011, of taking part in misleading selling practices relating to a sales script, between September 2008 and July 2009. The firm was found not guilty on five other similar matters.
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. This must be the biggest ever fine in the country for a Trading Standards prosecution. 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.
Media wanting to interview Steve Playle, who led the investigation, can contact him on 07968 834647.
Media requiring more information can contact Surrey County Council senior media relations officer James Oxley on 0208 541 7259.