This month Age Scotland’s Hot Tips calendar looks at home energy, including how to deal with doorstep sellers promising lower bills if you switch supplier. By Rebecca Gordon.
As energy prices continue to rise in the UK, switching providers can help to save money on your bills. Before you make the change, however, it’s important you have all the information you need to decide.
‘Doorstop selling’ or ‘cold calling’ are techniques used by some suppliers to encourage you to sign up with them. Rather than providing you with details of all the deals available in your area, they’ll only advise you on those offered by their company. These salespeople are required to follow rules when calling at your home, and must not put you under pressure to sign up to an energy deal if you’re not ready. As well as providing you with enough information to help you decide what to do, doorstep sellers should not use any tricks to get you to sign up to a contract without realising it.
Lil Billingham, 83, from the Scottish Borders, says she knows how to deal with doorstep sellers. She said: “Someone came recently and tried to sell us a contract – it was a lot of money he quoted so we just said no. They kept coming and they kept calling at all times, we were frightened to open the door.
“Now what I do if someone comes to the door is say ‘just call me before you come – we’re careful really, we always check identification’.”
What a doorstep seller must do on a visit
The following are the rules which doorstop sellers must adhere to when they pay you a visit. If they don’t pass the test, don’t let them pass the threshold!
- Show ID and give you a number to call so that you can check their identity
- Only call between 9am and 8pm unless you have invited them to call outside these hours
- Check they are talking to the person who is responsible for paying the bills
- Be honest about why they are calling
- Go away if you ask them to
- Get permission from the warden if they are visiting sheltered accommodation
- Give the correct information about prices
Making winter more affordable
While switching suppliers may be a good way to save on fuel bills, there are other ways to bring down costs this winter. Making sure you receive all the support you are entitled to could make a real difference.
For a start, you can check your eligibility for Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, or Attendance Allowance. Some people also qualify for Cold Weather Payments, which are issued when your area’s average temperature is recorded as 0°C or below for seven consecutive days. To find out if you’re eligible, contact the Age Scotland Helpline on 0845 125 9732 or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. If you phone the Energy Saving Scotland advice centre on 0800 512 012 they will be able to advise about energy efficiency grants to which you may be entitled.
You are likely to qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment this winter if you were born 5 July 1951. The level of payment can vary between £100 and £300 depending on individual circumstances. For more information call the Winter Fuel Payments helpline on 0845 915 1515 or see https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/overview.
The Warm Home Discount, which applies to all customers of the ‘Big 6’ energy companies, makes automatic payments of £130 to those in receipt of the Guarantee Element of Pension Credit, and in later years will extend to those in receipt of the Savings Element of Pensions Credit. Contact your supplier to find out more.