HC Deb 11 February 1999 vol 325 c402W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation to protect consumers from unduly-aggressive doorstep sales techniques on behalf of utilities companies following deregulation of the domestic electricity and gas markets. [69676]

Dr. Howells

Misleading and over-aggressive doorstep selling practices are unacceptable. In relation to the gas and electricity markets, I have made my concerns clear to the Regulators and the industry on numerous occasions. In both sectors licence conditions have been put in place to help regulate the doorstep selling and marketing activities of gas and electricity suppliers. Also, the Association of Energy Suppliers have modified their code of practice so that members' sales representatives calling on the doorstep provide to consumers, on request, clear written information in relation to prices.

In addition, I have recently strengthened the Regulations governing doorstep selling, to improve the protection for vulnerable consumers. The amended Regulations came into force on 31 December 1998.

These give consumers greater protection because consumers who agree to a trader visiting following an unsolicited doorstep selling approach retain the right to cancel the contract within seven days. In addition, it is now a criminal offence for a trader not to give the consumer written notice of their right to cancel, (subject to exceptions, including where the agreement is cancellable under the Consumer Credit Act 1974).

I will shortly launch an information campaign informing consumers of their rights and warning them about the practices of unscrupulous doorstep sellers.