Ofgem, the UK's energy regulator, has fined Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) a record £10.5 million for "numerous breaches of its obligations relating to telephone, in-store and doorstep sales activities."
The company - which boasts more than nine million customers - has apologized, but will face an uphill struggle to regain its battered reputation after the regulator found failures at 'every stage of the sales process'.
The list of breaches includes telling some customers they could save money, while in reality, they were switched to a more expensive contract and claiming that other energy suppliers were making "all sorts of false promises", while in fact they themselves were doing just that.
Although SSE "takes full responsibility for its actions and will be accepting the fine in full", the £10.5 million penalty represents just a tiny fraction of its profits.
So far, of the £5 million SSE has put aside for mis-selling claims, customers have only been awarded £400,000 in compensation.
The firm - of which I was a customer until a few years ago - will have to work extremely hard to convince customers, the regulator, consumer groups and politicians that it is truly repentant and will change its ways.
The fact that no director or employee has been sacked, despite a clear indication of management failings, has frustrated many, including Labour MP Barry Gardner, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee. He wants the top directors at SSE to go.
The SSE investigation is just one of four launched by Ofgem in 2010. The fine has the distinction of being the highest ever, which perhaps shows Ofgem has swapped its bark for a chunky bite.
Millions of customers struggling to pay their bills in the face of increased costs will want Ofgem to keep baring its teeth as a warning to other firms who may be abusing their market dominance in pursuit of profit at consumers' expense.
Ofgem says its hands are tied, regarding ordering firms to pay compensation to consumers. My view is that such a power could force all energy firms to concentrate on providing a more transparent and ultimately better service to retain customers as opposed to a 'bait and switch' approach which has become an all-too-common practice among large companies.
Thoughts on customer service, communication and, of course, reputation management.