British Gas has announced plans to suspend its door-to-door selling, claiming the traditional cold-calling method is becoming outdated.
With consumer groups and MPs alleging the sales technique puts unnecessary pressure on consumers to change their energy tariffs – often to deals that leave them even worse off – the energy provider will stop knocking on doors for three months, during which time it will investigate other means of selling its products.
In 2006 British Gas employed 1,300 doorstep sales staff, but that number has dwindled to less than a quarter, largely thanks to changing attitudes and consumers turning to the Internet to find increasingly better deals. The move to suspend the activity follows in the footsteps of Scottish and Southern Energy, who have already stopped selling their energy products door-to-door. The decision by SSE came after the energy provider was found guilty last month on two counts of mis-selling, after Surrey County Council took them to court.
Consumer Focus have applauded British Gas’s decision, after championing a 90-day reprieve on cold calling, saying it is “the sort of move that responsible companies make when it becomes clear that consumers are unhappy with the way they do business”.
Suspending door-to-door selling will be seen as an important step forward when it comes to rebuilding trust in an unpopular industry, but unlike British Gas, Scottish Power and EDF have so far refused to end the practice, while npower and E.ON remain undecided.
“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 of energy at British Gas.
“We want the energy advice we give our customers to be trusted and delivered at a time and place that is convenient to them,” he added.
British Gas has said it has no plans to make any of its door-to-door sales staff redundant.