July 25 2014 Latest news:

British Gas has moved a step closer to ending the practice of doorstep selling after it said its 300 cold-call staff would stop knocking on doors for three months.

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Consumer groups claim the practice puts pressure on people to switch to worse deals, with accusations that it is not in a cold-caller’s interest to persuade people to sign up for the most competitive option.

The energy giant currently employs more than 300 staff who cold-call at homes, but it said they would spend the next three months talking to existing customers about its home insulation deal instead of trying to sign up new customers. In the meantime, it said it would explore other ways to sell its products.

Rival supplier Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) has already suspended the practice after being found guilty of two counts of mis-selling in a case brought by Surrey County Council.

A call by Consumer Focus for a 90-day moratorium on cold-calling has had mixed success so far. EDF and Scottish Power have refused to end the practice while Eon and Npower have yet to make a decision.

Adam Scorer, director of external affairs at Consumer Focus, said: “British Gas has responded to our call for action. We applaud the move and call for others to follow the lead set by British Gas and SSE.

“This is the sort of move that responsible companies make when it becomes clear that consumers are unhappy with the way they do business.

“For more than a decade, cold-call doorstep sales have led to hundreds of thousands of people paying more for their energy after switching to worse deals.

“We know people strongly dislike doorstep sales and feel pressured to switch at the door, and energy firms don’t offer their best rates face-to-face. Cold-call energy sales simply aren’t what customers need or want.”

Scott Byrom, an analyst at Moneysupermarket, said: “Following in the footsteps of SSE, British Gas has become the next energy giant to announce it is to suspend doorstop selling – a move to be applauded.

“With the two largest energy providers taking this decision, it further cements the view this method of selling is not only outdated but nearly always fails to offer bill payers the best deals on their gas and electricity.”

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