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Energy suppliers still failing to resolve complaints

24 July 2015

The worst performing energy firms have failed to improve on poor complaint handling, according to energy complaints data from Citizens Advice.

The consumer champion’s latest quarterly figures show no significant improvement in the number of customers complaining about energy firms at the start of 2015.

Complaints about five out of the six energy firms have increased in the past twelve months.

Between the six largest energy companies, there was an average of 271 customer complaints per 100,000 customers in Jan-March 2015.

This headline figure hides wide variations in customer complaint levels:

  • Scottish Power is the worst performing supplier, with 1,154.6 complaints per 100,000 customers.

  • SSE is the best performing supplier with 55.1 complaints per 100,000 customers.

The lack of improvement is despite a number of firms receiving sanctions from the regulator Ofgem for poor customer service in 2014-15.  

Previous research from Citizens Advice has found that two thirds of customer complaints are about billing issues.

Scottish Power became the worst performing supplier at the end of 2014 after introducing a new system which caused billing issues for many customers.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Energy firms have no excuse for continued poor service.

“The majority of complaints from customers are about their bills, from large back bills to incorrect bills, or even no bill at all.  With billing a basic part of the service energy firms provide, it should be the simplest thing to get right.

“While Scottish Power and Npower have taken steps to tackle their ongoing billing problems, which have caused a huge number of complaints, some customers are still finding it difficult to get their problem resolved.

“The CMA has made encouraging interim recommendations to improve this market. It now needs to act to ensure all customers get the best deal and good customer service from suppliers.”

Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Margaret Lynch said:

“It’s really disappointing to see complaints increasing across the big six, particularly given what we now know from the CMA investigation into the energy market. Low levels of trust in the industry mean consumers are less likely to shop around and therefore miss out on hundreds of pounds of savings. Consumers deserve so much better.”

The Competition and Markets Authority recently released interim findings of an investigation into the energy market, showing it is failing the vast majority of customers.

Anyone who needs advice on issues with their energy supplier can contact their local Citizens Advice or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06. You can talk to a Welsh-speaking adviser on 03454 04 05 05.

In the latest energy complaints table below the best performing supplier (for Quarter 1, 2015) is at the top and the worst is at the bottom.

Complaints about Energy suppliers per 100,000 customers

April - Jun 2014

July - Sept 2014

Oct - Dec -2014

Jan - Mar 2015

SSE

33.7

45.7

44.5

55.1

EDF Energy

82.7

110.4

75.1

76.8

British Gas

81.4

97.3

72.3

83.9

E.ON

79.2

99.2

108.2

101.1

npower

647.9

719.4

599.0

675.4

ScottishPower

256.0

744.8

1,163.0

1,154.6

Average

159.0

236.7

258.0

271.3

Tips for energy customers

  • Complain to your energy supplier as soon as you experience a problem.

  • If you have not received a bill but are expecting one, try to put money aside so you are able to pay when you do eventually get the bill.

  • Energy companies are only allowed to back bill for energy you used in the last 12 months, anything older than that should be written-off where the supplier is at fault.  

  • Ask for some sort of compensation for the time you spent on trying to sort out problems and the financial impact of late billing for example reduce the balance of the bill and cover the cost of phone calls.  

  • Npower customers who have received a late bill can contact the supplier on 0800 9759065

  • Scottish Power has increased the opening hours of its call centre to 10pm to help deal with customer queries.  

  • Suppliers must take into account ability to pay when setting debt repayment levels.  

  • You can get advice from the Citizens Advice energy consumer line on 03454 04 05 06.

  • You can talk to a Welsh-speaking adviser on 03454 04 05 05.

  • If you are struggling to resolve your complaint you can raise it with the energy ombudsman on 0330 440 1624.

Notes to editors

  1. Data is weighted ratio per 100,000 customers.  Weightings have been allocated to reflect the seriousness of the complaint and the time and effort spent by the consumer to get their problem resolved. The weightings in the model place greater emphasis on situations where the consumer has had to repeatedly contact their supplier, or another agency, because the company has failed to deal with their problem. The measures used in the model are outlined in the methodology.

  2. Citizens Advice now holds Consumer Futures a statutory duty to provide information to consumers. The performance model to accurately illustrate relative energy company performance which will give consumers access to the information they need to make informed switching decisions. We believe it is essential that the performance model reflects all elements of the new complaint handling regime and uses a basket of measures including those from independent bodies.
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  5. To get advice online or find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  6. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  7. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.