A £10.5m record fine for energy giant SSE

The proposed fine by Ofgem is the largest ever imposed on an energy supplier. Photo: Press Association

10.5 million pounds is the biggest ever fine the authorities have imposed on an energy supplier.

And the tone of Ofgem's statement shows why - they don't just accuse SSE of misleading consumers in conversations on the phone, in store, and on the doorstep, but they point the finger at the company's executives who let it happen.

At a time when SSE, along with other companies, have been making a big play of trying to build trust, the fine is a reminder that all has not been well in the energy industry - customers often have reason to feel aggrieved and not everything has been put right.

A couple of months ago the incoming boss of the company, Alistair Phillips-Davies told me:

It's about setting ourselves ever higher standards and making ourselves accountable...we have not always lived up to customers' expectations in the past...but we have been at the forefront of progress that has been made in the industry.

Today he'll be in no doubt about how big the task will be.

Some of the things that went wrong are:

  • Telling some customers that they would save money when in fact they were switched on to a more expensive contract.
  • Telling some customers that they could make larger savings if they switched to SSE than were possible.
  • Telling the customer that by switching to SSE they would be getting the full reductions they’re entitled to, “just like the government intended”.
  • Telling the customer that other suppliers were making “all sorts of false promises”
  • Telling the customer that other suppliers were putting their prices up, or that other suppliers’ price increases were higher than they actually were.
  • Suggesting to customers that SSE can put them on a “preferred customer tariff … with no standing charge if you want”, omitting that those customers would be charged higher first tier unit rates instead of a standing charge.

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