Immunity from Prosecution?

If I turned up on your doorstep and told you lies to persuade you to sign a contract, and you believed the lies and signed the contract and subsequently it turned out that you could prove quite easily that I had lied to you and I had deceived you, you might think that I had committed some criminal offence. Indeed, I would have committed the offence of fraud under the Fraud Act. All the prosecution need to prove that I was dishonest, that I intended to make a gain and that I made a false or misleading misrepresentation.  I could easily be shown to have an intention of misleading you, because it must have been clear that I knew I was telling you a pack of lies when I got you to sign the contract.

For some reason which I cannot understand the Fraud Act is not being applied to energy companies. Today I learned that one of the big six energy companies SSE has been fined by Ofgem for prolonged and misleading misspelling. It seems that in many cases SSE sent people to doorsteps with a script which they must have known was misleading in order to induce people to sign up to energy contracts. The script contained some blatant lies. SSE also did the same on the telephone and in stores where they sold energy packages to consumers.

SSE has been fined £10.5 million, which is no more than a minor embarrassment to SSE, and SSE have profusely apologised for what they have done. I cannot fathom why SSE were not considered for prosecution under the Fraud Act. Perhaps the criminal law does not apply to large enrgy companies.

Had SSE been prosecuted (and it is not too late to bring a prosecution, the fines would be much more substantial. Also the Court could have the opportunity, in addition to fines, to deprive SSE of their ill-gotten gains. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, if SSE were to be convicted of fraud, then the Court would have the right to make a confiscation order in respect of money that SSE had received as a result of the proven fraud.

But SSE are not, as far as I know, being considered as a potential target for a fraud prosecution and the ill-gotten gains (less the £10.5 million) are still safely in the hands of a business that made nearly £400 million in the half year to 30 September 2012.

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