Energy cold-calling is being sparked back into life by smaller providers that increasingly send staff to knock on doors in a bid to persuade customers to switch suppliers. But don't be pressured into switching if an energy salesperson turns up at your home – do a full market comparison in your own time.
While the practice of doorstep sales was dropped by the big six providers about five years ago following mis-selling concerns, a number of small energy suppliers are seeking to win new business by engaging in the face-to-face sales approach.
About a dozen smaller suppliers are understood to be engaged in doorstep selling and although it's perfectly legal – so long as energy regulator Ofgem's licence conditions are met – the best course of action is to always do your own market comparison before you commit to a switch.
A number of providers are signed up to a panel operated by a company called Money Expert, which sends sales agents out door-knocking in the hope of earning commission for switches.
Previously there has been confusion that MoneySavingExpert.com is affiliated with Money Expert and in recent weeks we've heard from a string of users who have mistaken Money Expert for MSE – the two companies are in no way linked and if you're told otherwise you should let us know.
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Which energy suppliers are doing doorstep sales?
There are thought to be more than 10 small suppliers on the Money Expert panel, which includes First Utility and Ovo Energy – both firms have defended the face-to-face sales approach.
A spokesperson for First Utility said: "We believe that responsible face-to-face selling is an effective way to help alert the millions of disengaged energy customers that are paying too much for their energy but that are harder to reach via online channels.
"We are committed to doing this in a responsible, fair and transparent way, following all of the Ofgem and best practice guidelines. We closely monitor the activity and have very close governance in place to ensure it meets our strict standards."
An Ovo Energy spokesperson added: "Ovo Energy engages with customers in a variety of innovative ways through direct and indirect and online and offline channels.
"Our partnership with Money Expert is one such channel which we believe will encourage disengaged customers to switch away from incumbent suppliers to our fairer, cheaper deals and award winning customer service."
Meanwhile, other providers are using their own sales staff to knock on doors of potential customers. Octopus Energy is one such supplier, with the firm employing around 30 agents.
Greg Jackson, founder of Octopus Energy told MSE: "We're testing door-to-door on a small scale, to see if we can reach the customers who have been paying big six rip-off tariffs for too long.
"In our limited trial to date, we've found many people really do want to discuss their energy bills. We use the latest technology to record every conversation, to track every agent and to ensure that we deliver accurate information. If people don't want to switch there and then, we are pleased to email them a quote so that they can make their decision at leisure.
"Let's not forget that the biggest issue in energy is excessive bills from the big six, and I admire MSE and Martin Lewis for the war they wage on these tariffs."
What does Money Expert say?
Money Expert CEO Nigel Warr told us: "We provide a full market offering. Around 70% of energy customers are on standard variable rates and 55% have never switched. We're focused on older generations who aren't internet savvy and we're saving people a lot of money."
Commenting on previous customer confusion regarding the similarity of the MoneySavingExpert and Money Expert company names, Warr added: "We make it clear that we're Money Expert and we're nothing to do with anyone else. Everyone [who takes part in face to face sales] wears a high vis Money Expert-branded jacket."
What are the rules on doorstep energy sales?
The overarching rule is that, under Ofgem's standards of conduct, suppliers have to treat customers fairly and must provide information that's "complete, accurate and not misleading".
An Ofgem spokesperson said: "Where companies are marketing door-to-door, we have strong enforceable regulations in place to protect consumers. These include requiring suppliers and their representatives to carry out marketing activities in a fair, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.
"If they breach our regulations, we'll take tough enforcement action as necessary. We have imposed around £40 million to date in penalties for mis-selling."