The utility giant SSE is to be fined £10.5m for “prolonged and extensive” mis-selling in what will be the largest ever penalty imposed on an energy provider.
The energy watchdog Ofgem said it found “failures at every stage of the sales process” across SSE’s telephone, in-store and doorstep selling activities.
SSE provided “misleading and unsubstantiated statements” to potential customers about prices and savings that could be made by switching to SSE, according to Ofgem.
Ofgem said the level of the fine reflected the seriousness and the duration of the mis-selling, as well as the harm caused to customers and the likely gain to SSE, reports The Guardian.
Management at SSE – one of Britain’s “big six” energy suppliers – failed to pay enough attention to compliance, which allowed the mis-selling to take place, added Ofgem.
Ian Marlee, the managing director for markets at Ofgem, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “This is a woeful catalogue of failures by the SSE management.
“This fine represents the fact that what they were doing was allowing a culture of mis-selling to continue. They weren’t doing enough to prevent sharp selling practices from their selling agents. They actually provided misleading sales scripts.
“Some people were being told they were going to get savings when actually they were being put on a worse deal. People were expecting savings and were not getting the levels of savings. People were being told direct debit levels that made it sound like they were going to be better off when in fact they were worse off.
“What we need and what we expect from energy companies is they have a culture of putting consumers first and complying with the rules.
“Clearly SSE management were not doing that which is why we imposed the largest fine on energy suppliers we have ever imposed.”
The fine will be paid to the Treasury, Marlee said.