Breaking news- doorstep sellers may not be 100% truthful
You know how it goes. Its 6.30pm, and the doorbell rings on a weekday evening. It could be a fairy godmother looking to bestow some wishes. It could be that enormous finger from Camelot groaning "It could be yoooo". But most probably it's someone trying to sell you something*.
Now, Scottish and Southern Electric have been found guilty on two counts of taking part in misleading selling practices by Guildford Crown Court, after an action brought by Surrey Trading Standards. SSE now have the dubious honour of being the first UK utility to fall foul of trading regulations passed in 2008 and will be sentenced on May 27. The company, who were also found not guilty on five other similar counts, may also face a proceeds of crime hearing.
The offence centred on the use of a script by SSE salespeople between September 2008 and July 2009. 1,000 sales agents were instructed to doorstep potential customers and say: “The thing is, we’ve had a printout this morning of energy customers who, with all the recent changes, may be paying an expensive tariff. And unfortunately you may be one of them.”
In fact, and as a surprise to trusting householders across Surrey, no such printout existed. The sales agents knew nothing about the people they were visiting, aside from the fact that they were customers of rival utilities. SSE also admitted that this scurrilous practice gained them 800,000 new customers. So it was, at least, effective then.
Steve Playle, the Surrey County Council trading standards officer who led the investigation, said: "I am absolutely delighted at the result," and added, admiringly, "the sales script was cleverly designed to put potential customers on the back foot and to open the door to a sale."
SSE have suggested they may challenge the verdict- "We are clearly disappointed and are now considering our legal options, which includes the possibility of an appeal. We want to reassure customers, and potential customers, that this case relates to sales aids used in February 2009, which are not in use today, and we are confident that our sales processes continue to be fair and responsible."
Oh, well that's OK then.
* Jehovah's Witnesses are included in this category. They are trying to sell you eternal salvation for the price of a lifetime of devotion and servitude. As yet, no-one has concrete evidence that they do not deliver on their promise.