Doorstep energy sellers used to switch thousands of people every year, but after a series of mis-selling cases the practice has all but stopped.
Almost 7 million households in the UK have taken out an energy plan through a doorstep or direct energy salesperson. But levels of satisfaction with the service they provide are low.
Doorstep energy sales
Despite the fact that so many people switch with doorstep and direct energy salespeople, according to research by uSwitch, less than a quarter of those who have done so (22%) believe they got a good deal.
Of these, only 6% said that it reduced their bills significantly and just 16% were very pleased with the deal they got.
Over a third of people (37%) think that energy salesmen don't give them enough information to make an informed decision
Almost half (45%) don't like the fact that the seller only represents one energy supplier.
New rules governing doorstep energy selling came into force in January 2010. Under these new rules, anyone who is sold a new energy plan on the doorstep, the high street or in a shop must be given a written quote before the switch can go through.
While this will offer you greater protection, you still need to be cautious -the written quote means you have proof of the deal you've been offered, but that's no guarantee that it's the cheapest plan for you.
It does however make it simpler to compare prices before you switch, by giving you a written quote that you can take away and double-check.
You don't have to wait for a doorstep energy seller to come to you to switch - you can compare prices online with uSwitch whenever you like, and switching to a cheaper plan could save you as much as £350.
No more doorstep energy
In July 2012 the energy supplier E.ON became the last of the so-called 'big six' energy companies – the others being British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower – to put an end to doorstep energy sales, thereby putting the final nail in the coffin for doorstep energy.
But just because energy isn't being sold on the doorstep doesn't mean other things aren't. A recent Watchdog investigation found numerous examples of doorstep sellers offering poor deals on a range of energy-saving products, from solar panels to cavity wall insulation.
Our ten point checklist for getting the best deal
- Make sure you know what energy company the salesperson represents.
- Check what type of plan they are offering - can they tell you about their company's online plans?
- Online plans are often the cheapest.
- Before telling you how much money you can save, the seller should have asked you:
- Which supplier and what plan you are currently on.
- How you pay for your energy - e.g. prepayment meter, cash, cheque or direct debit.
- Where you live.
- What your energy consumption is, how much you spend each month or what type/size property you live in.
- Have they given you a full quote telling you what your new annual bill would be so that you can compare?
- What is the value of any additional incentives, like shopping vouchers or reward points, and how and when do you qualify for them?
- Have these been factored into the annual bill size? (They shouldn't be.)
- If you've opted for dual fuel (getting both gas and electricity from the same supplier) and to pay by direct debit, have they factored in the discounts you should get?
- Does the plan have a standing charge?
- Are there any exit penalties?
- Make a note of the salesperson's name and ID number - you can contact them if you decide to go ahead after checking that theirs really is the cheapest deal, and you'll also have a point of reference in case there are any problems.
How to get a better energy deal
The best way to get a cheaper deal on your gas and electricity is to run your own comparison. Using a comparison service like ours means you can guarantee that you look at the whole market, comparing all the latest deals, with unbiased results.
uSwitch is a signatory of the energy regulator Ofgem's 'Confidence Code'. The Confidence Code is a voluntary code of practice that guarantees you that uSwitch is independent and impartial, that we show tariffs fairly, and that all the information we show you is accurate and up-to-date.
All you need to run a comparison is a recent energy bill and five minutes of your time. To get the most accurate results use the consumption figures from your energy bill to enter your usage in kWh. Don't worry if you can't find your usage figures though, you can still get accurate results with your spending figures.
Our results will feature a range of different suppliers and plans available in your area, along with how much you could save by switching.
You will also be able to filter the results by a number of different criteria. For example, you can choose to see dual fuel plans, where you receive your gas and electricity from the same supplier on the same plan, or gas or electricity only plans.
You can also choose between fixed or variable plans. Fixed plans typically cost slightly more than variable plans, but they guarantee the rate you pay per kWh for a given period of time, so you don't have to worry about price rises.
Switching is as easy as entering your basic details, including payment details if you wish to pay by Direct Debit, and sending your switch to us. We take care of everything else, sending your details through to your new supplier who in turn will send your switch request to your old supplier.
The only other thing you have to do is take a final meter reading to ensure your final bill is accurate, and that's it.