Centrica's British Gas to end doorstep sales

Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:00am EDT

Related Topics

* British Gas to stop doorstep sales for initial three month period

* Consumer Focus calling for moratorium on energy cold-calling

By Adveith Nair

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Centrica's British Gas, the UK's largest energy supplier is to suspend all doorstep sales for an initial three-month period, following a request from Consumer Focus, Britain's statutory consumer lobby group.

Consumer Focus has been calling for a three-month moratorium on energy cold-calling and Friday's announcement comes a month after Scottish & Southern Energy said it would suspend all of its doorstep sales.

"We applaud the move and call for others to follow the lead set by British Gas and SSE," said Adam Scorer, Director of External Affairs at Consumer Focus. "This is the sort of move that responsible companies make when it becomes clear that consumers are unhappy with the way they do business."

EDF energy and Iberdrola's Scottish Power have so far refused to end cold call doorstep sales, while E.ON (EONGn.DE) and RWE's npower have yet to commit to a moratorium, the lobby group said.

SSE, Scottish Power, npower and EDF Energy are currently being investigated for lack of clarity in approaching new customers on the doorstep.

"We know people strongly dislike doorstep sales, feel pressured to switch at the door and that energy firms don't offer their best rates face-to-face," said Scorer.

UK consumer groups are also calling on customers to demanding regulatory action as more and more suppliers hike their power and gas tariffs.

Meanwhile, British Gas said it has been reducing the use of doorstep selling, with the number of field sales agents it employs having dropped to less than a quarter of the 1,300 employed in 2006.

"Doorstep selling, in its current form, is no longer a sustainable way to engage or build a relationship with customers," said Ian Peters, Managing Director, Energy at British Gas. (Reporting by Adveith Nair; Editing by Matt Scuffham)

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