Rules about selling gas and electricity
All gas and electricity suppliers have to meet certain standards when they market or sell energy supply contracts. These are set out in the Utility Regulator's Marketing Code of Practice.
If you feel you’ve been pressured into switching to a new energy supplier or have been switched without your consent, it is possible the salesperson or company has broken these rules.
This page outlines the rules gas and electricity suppliers should follow when they contact you.
Rules for sales people who call at your home
If you take out a new contract for gas and electricity from someone who calls at your home, the sales person should behave in a responsible way. Very few energy suppliers sell supply contracts on the doorstep, but the main suppliers who do have signed up to a marketing code of practice.
The rules are designed to make sure you have got all the information you need to make the right decision about what is best for you. Any sales person who visits you to try to sell you a new energy supply contract should:
- only visit you between 9am and 8pm on weekdays and 9am and 7pm on Saturdays unless you have invited them to call outside these hours
- show you ID without being asked, and give you a number to call so you can check their identity
- get permission from the warden if they are visiting sheltered accommodation
- be honest about why they are calling on you
- go away if you ask them to
- give you correct information about prices
- not use any tricks to get you to sign a contract without realising it
- not pressure you into signing up
- give you a comparison based on unit rates and any standing/fixed charges, not a comparison on an annual amount.
If you agree to sign up to the supplier
If you agree to sign up to the supplier, the sales person must:
- explain the main terms and conditions of the contract before you sign
- provide you with a copy of the contract either at the time or as soon as possible afterwards
- explain how you will be billed
- explain what will happen next
- give you their name and ID number
- give you information about your right to cancel if you change your mind
The Utility Regulator requires all suppliers to cover a list of questions with a potential customer before signing them up for an account. You can find the full list of questions in Annex A of the Marketing Code of Practice for Domestic Customers.
If you change your mind or decide that you are unhappy with the new contract within 10 working days of the agreement, you can end the contract.
Rules for sales people who telephone you
The rules for sales people who telephone you are largely the same as for doorstep selling.
For the standard sales checklist which they must inform you about, see Annex A of the Marketing Code of Practice for Domestic Customers.
If a sales person telephones you to try to get you to change your gas or electricity supplier, this is called distance selling. You have certain legal rights about the information you should receive before you agree to enter into a contract.
By law, all energy companies must have a set complaints procedure. If you have a problem or complaint you should first complain to your energy supplier. Most companies will acknowledge and attempt to resolve your complaint within 10 working days and under the Codes of Practice guidelines all complaints made to your supplier should be resolved within three months.
If you are not happy with your supplier’s response or if they have failed to respond, contact the Consumer Council, who can investigate the complaint on your behalf.
The Consumer Council
Consumer Council for Northern Ireland
Floor 3, Seatem House
28-32 Alfred Street
Tel: 028 9025 1600
Complaints line: 0800 121 6022