Wednesday, 7 March 2012


(Photo: UK Trading Standards Authority)
(EXCLUSIVE) An article in The Guardian last year pointed out that the claims about these plug-in devices claim to save users anywhere between 15% and 40% on energy bills, but actually pose a risk of fire and electrocution. They were being sold over the phone by 'rogue fraudsters targeting older people', it said. (See similar reports on BBC, Moneywise, and the UK Trading Standards Authority (TSA), the source of the original warning.)  Various trading standards authorities in Britain had received complaints about them; one of these came to the conclusion that the companies involved in these scams are not actually located in the UK and that the call centres they use are based abroad and the appliances appear to be distributed by a number of individuals in the UK. Among the companies mentioned in the article are 1 Stop Marketing Solutions, ITC Development Corp, Power Saver, and Athico Ltd, but the fraudsters could be using other names as well, according to the TSA. There is no way of knowing whether these or any other such companies are operating in Spain, but there seems to be a surge of these so-called 'energy-saving' devices appearing in the English-speaking press in Spain, often in full page colour ads. We did come across a Spanish forum about Power Saver, though, with much the same derogatory comments as we mention below.>>>
Iberswitch's own 'publication'
We even came across what has been carefully designed as a newspaper called Messenger Costa Luz. When Googling the name, at the top of the list are the words Costa Luz Press! a website belonging to Iberswitch (See for yourself). The 'newspaper' dates back to April 2011 and is full of references to a plug-in device they call the Power Star Saver, which, they claim, is guaranteed to reduce electricity costs from 10% to 35%.  

Among numerous comments on the Guardian online article was this one: "No appliance that draws power from the socket can actually save power - the laws of physics prevent it. All it can do is act as a resistance and deliver less power to the appliance whilst consuming the excess itself - hence the fire risk." There are also responses to this in the nature of 'not strictly true' but saying that the energy savings obtained 'are negligible.'

We know Iberswitch also offers cheap phone calls and ADSL (broadband) and indeed, their Messenger Costa Luz publication contains 'ads' for these services, with a phone number to call. We did, several times, and heard a man's recorded voice giving a choice of 'pressing 1' or 'pressing 2' -you know the thing- but never got beyond a busy number.

Euro Weekly News
On the other hand, more recently (Feb 19 last) an online forum talks about people 'switching over' to them from Endesa, though not about those devices. If you google 'iberswitch', as we did, you will see a whole lot of items (go to the second page) referring to switching electricity companies - and to not very happy customers. The title on one item: "IBERSWITCH or we've taken your money but DONTSWITCH". As we said, that's about changing electricity suppliers, not plugs.

We have not tried any of them, and would not. Nor are we accusing any such advertisers of anything illegal. However, we do know that trading standards in Spain tend to be considerably laxer than in the UK. And careful research has been unable to find any reference to such products on the general Spanish market, and although there was one forum about it (see above) we have not found any advertising of the devices. This does mean it does not exist, of course.

However, there are references to similar devices in online consumer organizations such as OCU, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios, which says: ¿Un dispositivo que permite consumir menos energía y, por tanto pagar menos en su factura eléctrica? Sí, existen, pero no sirven de nada: Hemos analizado uno de estos aparatos, y comprobamos que es un nuevo engaño. ("A device that allows less electricity use and therefore to pay less on your electricity bill? Yes, they exist, but they are useless: We have analyzed one of them, and prove it is a new scam." Dated September 2010).

Yet there are several online sales sites offering them for a wide range of prices and plenty of them look exactly like the one warned about by the TSA and is labelled 'Electricity Savings Box' (left).

There is even one advertised by GoogleAds -but not sold- on, from a site called (electricitysaver) that says the same as all the rest. There are probably more such sites.

In our experience, Spaniards are less tolerant of phone sales than most expats. Many if not most expats don't have enough Spanish to fully understand a pitch anyway - which leaves the door wide open to English-speaking scammers: a friendly voice in your own language may be welcome to many people, particularly the elderly, and therein lies the danger, as they say.

Does the device look like
the one at the start of this article?
In any case, if you get a phone call from someone trying to sell you one of these things, be very careful to find out more: ask for a phone number to call back and break off if they refuse; NEVER give any bank details if you're persuaded by their sales pitch; if you are asked to pay with a credit card, remember that you may not be able to claim for anything below €100. The fraudsters know this and usually price their items accordingly.

Then again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

See also:
- Open4Energy's Directory of Home Energy Scams for excellent advice
- About ITC Development Corp and scroll down
Which? online
Copyright © Alberto Bullrich 2012

MAJOR UPDATE from The Guardian of today, March 7, 2012: 

Victims of energy-saving scam targeted a second time

and from the Mirror


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