Doorstep selling of electricity and gas contracts should be banned because of the large number of crooks employed by suppliers, according to the newly-appointed ombudsman for the energy sector.
Olivier Challan Belval, who took up the role last November, said in a statement that he was astounded by the number of complaints from energy users about the tactics used by doorstep sales teams. “It is inadmissible that consumers find themselves with energy contracts which they do not understand, or even which they have never signed,” he said.
“I think it is time to hit hard so that these companies who encourage dishonest practices cannot continue to damage the energy market for householders and abuse their confidence.”
He added that it was particularly important to act now in the run-up to the deregulation of natural gas tariffs, programmed for July 2023. A spokeswoman for the ombudsman told Connexion that there had been a positive response from the government, parliamentarians, consumer groups and even a number of electricity suppliers to Mr Challan Belval’s statement.
“With the coronavirus lockdown, things have come to a stop, but once things get back to normal, we expect there will be moves to outlaw doorstep selling of energy contracts,” the spokeswoman said, adding that doorstep selling was worse than the unwanted telephone calls and emails that also upset customers.
“It is easier to say no to someone on the telephone than it is when they have managed to get in and sit at your table,” she said.
“And even when people have said no, there have been cases of outright fraud, where documents have been signed, or new contracts put into the system with no signature on them at all.”
While waiting for government action, the ombudsman’s office has published four guidelines for the industry and government administrators to follow.
- To ban sales teams from getting signatures on the doorstep;
- To stop the change-over to a new electricity or gas contract;
- until the time period for people to change their minds has passed;
- To agree to cancel any contract which does not follow the rules;
- For energy companies which break the rules to have a ban on supplying energy, in addition to the fines they might face for fraudulent behaviour.
For householders, the advice is:
- Do not sign anything during the visit and do not allow the doorstep sellers to leave with any document, such as a bank account RIB or an old electricity bill;
- Use the 14-day retraction period and cancel the new contract if you have doubts that it is a good deal;
- Inform yourself of current tariffs by looking at the government website comparateur.energie-info.fr;
- Don’t just look at the headline kWh price in a new contract but also the conditions of subscription and how prices will evolve with the contract.
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