Enraged business energy customers are inundating the Energy Advice Line with serious complaints about the way that utility companies are using cold calling as a tactic to try and make them sign up with them, and some firms have reported that they have been receiving as many as 30 high pressure calls in a single day.
Particularly targeted are those businesses who have just moved premises, and they have made numerous complaints of callers ringing up and fraudulently claiming to be meter official to elicit private information in order for their company to take over as the energy supplier.
Complaints from other customers include being plagued by sales calls to such an extent they have been forced to stop answering their phones, which in turn could be losing them vital business. Once of the worst complaints was when a business owner was plagued with phones during a funeral, even though he had asked them to stop calling.
The Energy Advice Line, the UK’s leading price comparison and switching service for business, has launched a campaign Say No To Cold Calling on Business Energy to lobby energy regulator Ofgem to ban the practice.
Julian Morgan, managing director of the service, said high-pressure cold-calling strategies were increasingly being used by rogue agents acting on behalf of the energy suppliers. Businesses moving premises were particular targets.
“You wouldn’t believe the stories we have heard abut the lengths these callers will go to in order to get customers to sign up to energy contracts,” Mr Morgan said. “These agents somehow obtain information about businesses who are taking on new leases, and then bombard them with sales calls.
“In many cases they pose as meter “officials” – although no such officials exist – so that business owners reveal meter information. Before they know it, they’ve been hoodwinked into expensive energy contracts We intend to present our evidence to Ofgem and urge the regulator to ban the practice in order to protect businesses from this kind of highly-suspect, high-pressure sales activity.”
Mr Morgan said specific examples of complaints involved cold-callers who:
• Called one prospective business customer 30 times in one day to sell an energy contract
• Called a prospective customer 10 times in one day placing intense pressure on them to agree to a contract
• Called a prospective customer 5 times a day before they had even moved into new premises, having already obtained their contact details and meter information
• Told a business owner they were legally obliged to accept the energy contract they were being offered
• Claimed to be from bogus organisations – variously called Central Registrations, The Meter Registrations Company, The Meter Registrations Department and Central Networks – to elicit private meter information
• Threatened to cut off energy supplies if the business owner refused to accept a contract offer
• Told business owners their meters needed to be “re-registered” in order to obtain meter registration numbers
• Made three unsolicited calls to a business owner in the space of 30 minutes, despite being asked to desist because they were attending a funeral
The Energy Advice Line has produced guidance for firms to follow to avoid being locked into the expensive business electricity and gas deals being touted by cold callers.
1. Speak to a price comparison service that has a large panel of suppliers: check that they are not just working for one specific supplier
2. Say No to Cold Calling: do not accept an energy deal from someone who calls you out of the blue. The price is usually 30%–40% above of the current retail price.
3. Verify who you are talking to: ring the company back and ask to speak to your account manager to ensure they are being truthful about the company they represent
4. Price transparency: go with a price comparison service prepared to put the energy tariffs they offer on their website so you can be sure you are making the right choice
5. Commission transparency: if you want to know how much commission the agency is earning from the switch just ask. A reputable service will tell you. If they will not tell you, be suspicious
6. Pressure selling: a professional impartial and transparent service will not exert any pressure on you to enter into a contract, and will give you the information and time you need to ensure you are making the right choice You can join the Say No to Cold Calling campaign and get further information at www.energyadviceline.org.uk/say-no-to-cold-calling.php You can also follow the campaign on twitter @SayNoToColdCall