Scottish supplier SSE has “apologised unreservedly” today after being fined a record £10.5million for misselling gas and electricity.
Ofgem slapped the energy provider with the penalty for breaching the rules when making sales over the phone, in-store and on the doorstep. The regulator says it found failures at every stage of the sales process, pinning the blame on SSE management.
The supplier was slammed for having “consistently failed, over a prolonged period of time” to give clear and correct information about prices and possible savings to domestic customers mainly between October 2009 and 2011. Although SSE stopped doorstep selling in July 2011, the problems continued, said Ofgem.
Sarah Harrison, Senior Partner in charge of enforcement said: “Today’s fine sends a clear message to suppliers that Ofgem will hold to account those companies which fail to treat consumers fairly. It is time for the energy industry to take note and get behind Ofgem’s reforms to rebuild trust and make the market simpler, clearer and fairer for consumers.”
The supplier said it was “deeply regretful” and that now the firm has the systems, procedures, staff, training and auditing in place to ensure that customers won’t be let down again.
William Morris, Managing Director for Retail said: “During the period in question we worked hard to offer competitive prices and carve out an industry-leading position on customer service. We did not, however, spend enough time monitoring our sales processes. That meant we did not always sell in the right way and we let some customers down.”
Consumer group Which? said it was “absolutely right” for Ofgem to punish the supplier but suggested the Government should step in to do more for those who lost out because of the failures. Although SSE has a £5million compensation fund for people affected, Ofgem has no powers to award compensation itself.
Richard Lloyd, executive director for Which? said: “With scandals like this it’s no wonder that less than a quarter of people say they trust energy companies… While SSE have contacted customers and have made funds available to compensate those affected, we want the Government to go further and ensure that the regulator has the power to force energy companies to proactively contact and compensate those customers who were mis-sold.”