British Gas halts doorstep sales

British Gas announces that its field sales agents will cease doorstep energy sales activity for an initial three-month period.

British Gas today announces that its field sales agents will cease doorstep energy sales activity for an initial three-month period. This in line with a request to all suppliers made by Consumer Focus. The energy provider will now work with its customers and consumer bodies to develop the way it provides access to advice and information about its products and services, including the role of appointment based face-to-face advice.

Listening to our customers

Doorstep selling, in its current form, is an increasingly outdated way for energy companies to engage new customers who no longer regard it as a preferred or trusted way to review their energy arrangements.

British Gas has been reducing the use of doorstep selling for many years. The number of British Gas field sales agents is now less than a quarter of the 1,300 employed in 2006.

Customer feedback has shown that, while face-to-face advice is valued, it needs to be delivered in a different way. This move will be an important step towards rebuilding trust in the energy sector. British Gas has started to do this already, seeking the views of customers and the independent British Gas Customer Board.

The energy provider will also consult with Consumer Focus, which recently called for a 90-day moratorium on this type of cold calling, and suggested energy suppliers should instead offer appointments, which would be agreed before a sales visit.

Giving customers control

British Gas is committed to giving its customers control of how they can access product information and advice at a time and place convenient to them.

There is growing demand for appointment based face-to-face advice provided by trained energy experts in local communities. Building on the success of its partnership with Sainsbury's, which has already attracted 100,000 new accounts since its launch earlier this year, British Gas is developing new ways for customers to be able to do this.

The internet has also become an increasingly important way for customers to manage their energy bills and research products. British Gas customers carried out more than 10 million online transactions in the first six months of this year, more than double the amount in the first half of 2010.

Ian Peters, Managing Director, Energy at British Gas, said:

"Doorstep selling, in its current form, is no longer a sustainable way to engage or build a relationship with customers. We want the energy advice we give our customers to be trusted and delivered at a time and place that is convenient to them."