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  Inside Out - South: Monday October 13, 2003


Ann Robinson
The Industry Watchdog is concerned about sales techniques

Inside Out presenter Chris Packham investigates slippery salespeople, who make a killing out of unsuspecting people.

The manager of a Portsmouth marketing company has been suspended following an undercover BBC South investigation.

Mitchell Ubah, from the Cobra agency's Arundel Street office, led a team of salesmen who tried to trick customers into changing their gas and electricity suppliers.

The BBC's Inside Out programme secretly filmed one salesman lying to residents in Waterlooville as he tried to persuade them to switch to NPower.

A spokesman for NPower said that the salesman responsible had been dismissed and that Mr Ubah had been suspended.

"What happened was just plain wrong and we are not taking it lightly at all," said the spokesman.

"There has been a problem in our Portsmouth office and I am very sorry to say the proper procedure hasn't been followed. We have retrained the entire office to make sure these things wont happen again."

NPower has also agreed to pay compensation to anybody who was tricked into switching their energy supplier.

Presenter Chris Packham says: "The sales pitch is dishonest from the start.

"They ask people if they have received their letter about their price reductions. But the letter doesn't exist and there aren't any guaranteed price reductions."

Last year, there were 12,000 complaints about energy salesmen and NPower was one of the worst offenders. The company recently signed up to a new code of conduct and promised to clean up its act.

But Ann Robinson, chair of the industry watchdog, was appalled by what she saw on the BBC's footage.

"This is evidence that the voluntary code of conduct isn't working and that we may have to think again about regulation," she said.

"In the meantime, I want Npower to check every sale that has been made over the last six months. They should transfer people back to their orginal supplier if necessary and pay everybody £250 compensation."

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Nathan Quayle
Watching your programme i was horrified to feel i was duped into changing my supplier in exactly the same way as some shown.I was also told on my doorstep that they were the cheapest supplier in Britain,which i now know,thanks to you,is not at all true.Thankfully i have now changed back supplier.

John Davies
I find your article most interesting as I am a door to door sales rep for british gas myself. I can honestly say that I do an honest job personally and sell based on good service and regular meter readings rather than price. However I can tell you that most of my fellows reps do as they call it bend the truth to pursuade the customer. Basically they probe the customer to find what will motivate them to sign up and offer whatever they have to. i have been encouraged by my manager to work in this way as I am often threatened with dismissal as I don't produce as many customers a my work mates. When I ask customers that I am sent to see why their left BG they usually say they were offered much larger savings than I know the company they switched to offers. I would estimate that almost all reps in the industry lie to acquire customers. The way I see it if this never happened and the public could believe what is said by door reps more people would be happy to compare tariffs. I think all suppliers should carry out monthly checks on each rep by sending them to a house set up with a camera. If reps knew that each month they would unknowingly sell to at least one mystery shopper I wonder whether all the dishonest reps would stick around to get caught and prosecuted!!

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