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Airtricity’s parent company fined €12.5 million for misleading customers

The fine was imposed after customers in the UK were given misleading information which made the company appear cheaper than competitors.

SSE has said that it was
SSE has said that it was "deeply regretful that breaches occurred".
Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A UK ENERGY supplier has been fined nearly €12.5 million (£10.5 million) for mis-selling gas and electricity to customers.

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) imposed the fine on SSE, which was formerly known as Scottish and Southern Energy.

SSE, which is the parent of the Irish energy company Airtricity, responded to news of the  fine by saying that it was “deeply regretful that breaches occurred”, and that the company apologised unreservedly to the customers that had been affected “by sales activity which ran counter to the values and culture of the company.”

The fine had been imposed by OFGEM after it concluded that the energy company had failed “at every stage of the sales process”, including its telephone, in-store and doorstep sales activities.

The watchdog said that the size of the fine reflected the “seriousness and duration” of the breaches, the harm they caused, and the financial gains which resulted.

It also said:

SSE consistently failed, over a prolonged period of time, to conduct its sales activities in a way that would provide clear and accurate information on prices and potential savings to enable customers to make an informed decision about whether to switch suppliers.

Misleading

An example of one of the misleading claims, as provided by OFGEM, was as follows:

Mrs. X had her energy supplied by one of SSE’s competitors. She was paying an annual bill of £1,600 for electricity and gas. In April 2010 she was visited by an SSE sales agent. The sales agent said Mrs. X would only pay £1,423 with SSE. That was not true. In fact she was going to pay £1,734 per annum. As a result Mrs. X thought that she was going to save £177 but in fact she was put on a tariff that was £134 more expensive than her previous deal.

In another case, a misleading statement was made during a telesales call:

In December 2010 Mrs. Z terminated her supply contract with SSE to switch to another supplier. She was called by an SSE sales agent who asked her why she had switched. Mrs. Z said that she had done so because SSE was increasing its gas prices by 9%. The sales agent countered that SSE were still the most competitive and that the other supplier had increased their prices by “14% combined”. This was misleading because the other supplier had increased their electricity and gas prices by 7% each which is 7% combined.

SSE said that it had taken “important lessons on board” and that it would change its sales procedures to ensure that it would no longer “fall short of the standards all of its customers deserve.”

Read: Electricity customer accidentally billed for second property for seven years >

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Paul Hyland

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