Energy firm loses sales appeal

Scottish and Southern EnergyA "big six" energy company found guilty of using doorstep salesmen to mislead potential customers has lost an appeal against its conviction.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London rejected a challenge by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), announcing that they were "not persuaded that this conviction was unsafe".
In May last year the company was found guilty of two counts of "engaging in a misleading commercial practice" in a prosecution brought by Surrey County Council Trading Standards.

The prosecution was believed to be the first of its kind against one of the big six energy firms. Following the decision, SSE is now due to be sentenced at Guildford Crown Court in Surrey on May 4.
Surrey's trading standards said salesmen from Scottish and Southern Energy had used a sales script and a print out to convince customers to switch suppliers.

After a five-day trial at Guildford Crown Court, SSE was found guilty of the two counts of taking part in misleading selling practices relating to the script between September 2008 and July 2009.

At the time of its conviction SSE said it wanted to reassure customers, and potential customers, that the case related to sales aids used in February 2009 which were no longer in use, and added that it was "confident that our sales processes continue to be fair and responsible".

Steve Playle, of Surrey's trading standards, said after the ruling that as a result of the case five of the big six, including SSE, have now stopped doorstep selling altogether.

He described it as a classic case of "David and Goliath" - with SSE having a "turnover something like £28 billion" and Surrey Trading Standards having a budget of "just £2 million", and called on SSE to write to every customer they signed up using the "illegal script" to "make a serious offer of compensation".

Stephen Forbes, SSE's director of sales, marketing and energy services, said: "We are very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal today, having lodged what we believe were very strong grounds to have the Crown Court verdicts overturned. We will now consider our next steps, but it is highly likely we will not seek to take this issue any further."

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