New rules for doorstep energy selling

It’s good news for consumers today as a new rule comes into play that gives them greater protection from doorstep energy sales staff.

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From today, anyone rapping on your door to try and persuade you to switch energy providers will have to provide you with a written quote before the sale can go through.

That’s because some customers have ended up on worse deals after signing up for a new energy tariff through a door-to-door salesperson promising cheap electricity.

More than half of consumers who switch energy providers do so because they’ve been directly approached by a sales person, according to Ofgem research from 2008. Of those people, eight in ten move because they’re promised cheaper electricity and gas.

Yet it’s been hard for customers to check they are actually moving to the best tariff for them.

Thanks to today’s rule change, customers will be armed with a written quote and can compare the tariff they’re being offered with the rest of the market.

It’s an extra layer of transparency that should allow you to compare all your energy options and find the cheapest gas and electricity deal for your home.

Scott Byrom, utilities expert here at moneysupermarket.com, said: “It's a very positive change and will help rebuild trust in door-to-door activity…

“Customers can quite easily check the quote on a price comparison site or suppliers own site and, by doing so, check other deals available on the market before making a decision. If they do switch on the doorstep, the quote can help ensure they get the right prices when their account goes live.”

What doesn’t the rule do?

The change in the law doesn’t guarantee bill payers will be offered the cheapest deal, it just means they can compare what they’re being offered to the rest of the market.

If you want to find the best gas and electricity prices, it’s vital that you compare energy providers to find the best deal for your region and usage.

By signing up to an online tariff – like the current market leader npower’s Sign Online 17 deal, with an average bill of just £907.36 – and paying by monthly direct debit can dramatically cut your bills.

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Scott added: “I advise any customers languishing on their provider's standard deal, whether worried about post-New Year bills or not, to swap to a monthly direct debit scheme and manage their account online.

“A standard QCC [quarterly cash and cheque] customer could save an average £299 a year - an easy move to make and something cash-strapped Brits should seriously think about."

What to do if a seller comes to call

Ofgem acknowledges that most salespeople are polite and professional, but it has provided some tips on dealing with anyone knocking at your door. It recommends:

  • Always ask for company ID
  • If you have any doubts then call the company to check the sales person is genuine (get their details from the phone book or online)
  • Never allow a seller into your home if you’re at all unsure or unhappy
  • If you want a friend or family member present then ask the seller to come back at another time
  • Never sign anything if you aren’t clear about what it is.

It also warns consumers to be on guard against certain phrases, as some unscrupulous sellers could be trying to trap you. Phrases like: ‘Sign here to show my boss I visited you’ or ‘Can you sign this to confirm I’ve spoken to you’ should ring alarm bells.

Likewise, be suspicious of sellers claiming that your existing supplier is closing down and their own company is taking over, or saying you’re eligible for a government discount on gas and electricity.

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