Surge in complaints about electricity selling

There's been a nasty jump in the number of complaints about unfair selling practices in the energy sector.  Many of the complaints centre on the sale of energy products on the doorstep.

In 2018 there were 483 complaints, up 13% on the year.

An told VRT Radio how a crafty salesman sold her 92-year-old mother an expensive electricity contract.  The salesman announced his visit in a telephone call.  The 92-year-old thought he was coming to read the metre.  The salesman didn't head for the metres, but for the kitchen where he demanded the woman's contract.

"He asked for her electricity bills, asked a few questions and then my mum signed something on a tablet."

Two weeks later the woman receives a letter informing her that she has changed supplier from Engie Electrabel to Essent!  An takes the matter up with Essent that agrees to cancel the contract.  They say they don't do door to doors sales.  The woman was signed up by an external operator.

Eric Houtman, the ombudsman for the energy sector isn't surprised by An's story.  He points to the fact that since 2016 the number of complaints has doubled.  He is also worried by the fact that more and more suppliers are using cowboy practises.  Salesmen are becoming more ingenious and more aggressive.  Mr Houtman concedes that price pressures on the energy market are intensifying the problem:

"Yes, there is a code of conduct.  Most suppliers have signed up.  It's getting stricter, but that doesn't mean more people are sticking to it!"

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