01 August 1997

TWO OF THE LARGEST new gas suppliers have refused to become members of the Association of Energy Suppliers, a quasi-trade association set-up jointly by the Gas Consumers Council and the Electricity Association to monitor dubious tactics in the direct sales of deregulated energy supplies. Eastern Natural Gas and Calortex both express reservations about the new body: 'We are confident that our customers are already protected. We already have our own code of practice which is tougher than the AES', claims the former; while Calortex, which has lobbied for a statutory code, says it hasn't joined because of 'concerns about the effectiveness of the [AES's] sanctions'. [Eastern's lofty confidence in its ethical stance is curious in the light of many complaints about its doorstep sales tactics. These resulted in a rebuke from industry watchdog Ofgas and the sacking of a number of errant salespeople.] Ofgas is now framing new plans to incorporate responsible marketing practice within the terms of the official licence, rather than leaving the matter to the present set of vague guidelines and the conscience of individual companies. Says an Ofgas spokesman: 'The opening of competition to 17 million homes needs more than just guidelines.' Details will be published in the next few weeks.