Energy suppliers criticised for cold-call abuses

gas ring with blue flame
Gas ring with flame

Mediator says companies are targeting poorer households and leaving them worse off

Energy firms have been strongly criticised by the energy mediator for problems linked to changing supplier that have seen poorer and older households left worse off.

The Médiateur National de l’Energie says in its annual report today that several gas and electricity suppliers are to blame for “reprehensible practices” that have seen 12,260 consumers launch legal action in 2016.

Changing supplier is meant to give customers cheaper energy but the mediator says that 39% of people say they have been approached to change, with some being repeatedly approached to the point where it became harassment.

It says “market confidence needs to be reinforced” after people said they had been cold-called, visited at home and received letters pushing them to change supplier.

They made up 9% of the total number of complaints and one in four of the court cases launched in 2016 was over contested contracts. So far this year, they made up 13% of legal actions launched.

Mediator Jean Gaubert said they saw “real abuses” ranging from misleading claims and even forced sales, which were especially damaging as they largely concerned the most fragile populations, especially the aged, who may not be able to resist.

Two companies, Engie (the former GDF-Suez) and Italian alternative supplier Eni, have been singled out for criticism for canvassing customers in their homes by using misleading arguments, aggressive commercial practices and forced sales.

Mr Gaubert said that people in poorer areas were being targeted and left worse off and while the companies could reply that it was a problem with sub-contractors it was Engie and Eni who set the terms of those contracts that paid only for signed agreements with customers.

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