SSE Handed Record Fine by U.K. Energy Regulator for Misselling

SSE Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest energy supplier, was fined a record 10.5 million pounds ($16 million) by the country’s energy regulator for misselling electricity and gas.

SSE breached obligations related to telephone, in-store and doorstep sales, Ofgem said today in a statement. Customers were exposed to misleading statements by sales agents and inaccurate information on charges, it said.

The fine comes as Britain’s energy suppliers including Centrica Plc and EON SE face increasing pressure to defend price increases. SSE received a fine of 1.25 million pounds in May last year relating to doorstep sales in 2009 while Electricite de France SA agreed to pay 4.5 million pounds after Ofgem found it breached market license conditions.

“Ofgem’s findings show SSE failed its customers, missold to them and undermined trust in the energy supply industry,” Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement, said in the statement. “Today’s fine sends a clear message to suppliers that Ofgem will hold to account those companies which fail to treat consumers fairly.”

Ofgem has now concluded two of the four misselling investigations started in 2010, with two ongoing probes relating to Scottish Power Ltd. and RWE Npower Plc, it said. The regulator started an investigation into EON’s energy sales practices in April last year.

SSE said it will accept the penalty and is “deeply regretful” of the breaches that occurred mainly between October 2009 and July 2011, when it suspended doorstep selling. The Perth, Scotland-based utility set aside 5 million pounds to compensate customers missold tariffs and has paid out more than 400,000 pounds so far, it said.

“Existing and potential customers can rest assured that we now have the systems, procedures, staff, training and auditing in place to ensure that they will not be let down again,” William Morris, managing director for retail at SSE, said in the statement.

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