A fledgling entrepreneur says she was stung by a cold call from a third party intermediary that left her stuck in an expensive three-year energy contract.
Polly Ellis opened a tanning salon in Hertfordshire earlier this year with her partner, Jonathan, after she was made redundant last year.
Shortly after launching, she took an ‘aggressive’ phone call from a firm, she was led to believe was business energy supplier Yorkshire Gas and Power, that said it must immediately remove the emergency meter tariff it claimed she was on.
However, the phone call turned out to be from Select Energy Direct which claims to be a ‘leading energy consultancy’ for business energy contracts.
One business owner believes she was scammed by a firm after it moved her energy supplier. Unwittingly, she was signed up to an energy deal with Yorkshire Gas and Power which is now charging her £800 a month in electricity and gas – despite not having gas mains – and is demanding £3,000 for her to leave the contract.
When Polly was called by the company, she said she was told the landlord of her salon had provided her details, as she needed to remove the emergency meter to stop her receiving further charges which were ‘on their way’.
Polly said: ‘The gentleman on the phone was very pushy to me. I kept asking him further questions but he said I must take him seriously and proceed with removing the meter as soon as possible.’
The man on the phone asked for Polly’s bank details claiming it was standard procedure and was just to remove the emergency tariff.
After feeling pressured, she handed them and he began to read the contract with their supposed electricity provider, Yorkshire Gas and Power.
Yorkshire Gas & Power says it has listened to a phone call and does not believe there was an issue with the broker’s conduct with Polly. Select Energy declined to comment, as it hadn’t had a direct complaint from her.
Polly added: ‘I had no idea I was being signed up with a provider. At one point I did ask to him slow down.
‘I ended up hanging up mid conversation and turning my phone off. He then proceeded to ring me consistently+6
Polly and her partner, Jonathan, are now stuck in a three year expensive contract.
‘When I turned my phone on again he had left me multiple missed calls and said that it wouldn’t take long to go through the contract which was mandatory.’
Polly says she was unaware that she was being read contract terms or that she was agreeing to anything, however, since then, her tanning salon has received a monthly bill for £800 from Yorkshire Gas and Power which also shows she is tied into the contract until April 2024.
Obviously, as a tanning salon, electricity bills are likely to be higher, but when she contacted the supplier asking to cancel their contract, she was told it would cost £3,000.
As a result, she has not paid anything yet but is concerned as Yorkshire has advised it will be sending debt collectors if it does not receive payment.
She also believes that, rather than the landlord handing over her details, Select Energy Direct found them through the new business registrations on Companies House.
She, and her partner, Jonathan, have listened to the calls back and are confident Polly was unaware she was signing up to a new three year contract.
However, they are now being hit with more charges including for cancelled direct debits – after Polly cancelled payments when she thought she had been scammed – and cancellation costs.
Another major concern is that the salon is being charged for gas, which they do not even have at the property, just electricity. The customers say they are being charged for a gas supply when the property doesn’t have it.
Jonathan said: ‘This is our first business and we are both very stressed. In what should be a happily exciting time for us, starting our own business, we have been hoodwinked by this third party company that maliciously cold called Polly.’
He added they have offered to pay the electricity they have used to Yorkshire so far but this offer was rejected.
A Yorkshire Gas and Power spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry to hear of the dissatisfaction this customer feels. YGP has rigorous standards in our contracting process through third parties and internal sales processes.
‘YGP prides itself on a high standard of customer service.
We have listened to a call recording lasting 7 minutes and 21 seconds between the customer and the third party broker and we have not been able to find any issue with the way in which the sale was conducted by broker.
‘The call recording does not indicate any form of pressurised selling from the broker and verifies that the broker did make it clear at numerous times within the call that they are a third party energy broker who are not employed by Yorkshire Gas and Power.’
It added it believes the recording makes it clear to the customer they are entering in to an energy supply contract and made clear the contract standing charges and unit rates.
The spokesperson continued: ‘Select Energy is a wholly separate and independent company from Yorkshire Gas and Power. It is an independent energy brokerage that can access and sell commercial energy supply contracts. We are one of many other commercial energy suppliers to whom they have access to the supply market.’
Regarding the gas supply, it says it has checked the status of the gas meter and believes there is a live gas supply.
Although Polly and Jonathan now have emails from Yorkshire’s customer service confirming they can move supplier, this has also been rescinded.
This is Money has contacted Select Energy Direct for comment but it said it would be unable to comment as it has not yet received a complaint from Polly and Jonathan.
The firm said it operates to high standards which are set out by the energy companies it deals with.
It added it will investigate any complaint it receives accordingly. On Trustpilot, despite a number of positive reviews, there are also a large amount of people complaining of a similar experience to Polly’s.
What to do if you think you have been misled?
Third party intermediaries, such as Select Energy Direct, are not subject to direct sectoral regulation in the same way as energy suppliers by Ofgem.
The watchdog has said it is mindful of the potential benefits and risks of the intermediaries and is currently progressing a number of projects that consider improvements in the services that will enhance consumer experience.
However, there are steps customers can take if they believe they have been misled by a salesperson into joining an energy deal, according to Citizens Advice.
It said customers should immediately contact either their old supplier or the new one.
Let them know that you didn’t agree to the switch, and ask them to cancel it if it’s still in progress. If the switch has already happened, ask them to reverse it.
Make a note of the date and time you call, and who you spoke to.
Once you’ve contacted the supplier, they should write to you within 5 working days to explain what they plan to do and within 20 working days to confirm they’re reversing the switch or explain why it was correct.
If they believe it was correct, then you can take the case to the Energy Ombudsman which will review it and make a decision.