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Gap widens between best and worst energy suppliers for complaint handling

9 December 2015

New data from Citizens Advice shows the gap between the best and worst energy suppliers for handling customer complaints has increased.

Co-operative Energy is ranked lowest and has the highest customer complaint ratio ever recorded by the consumer champion. It received 1,584 complaints per 100,000 customers - this is 40 times higher than the best performer, SSE. Earlier this year the Co-operative introduced a new billing and customer service system which has created problems.

The results for July to September 2015 show SSE, EDF Energy and Green Star Energy all reduced complaints with the latter even managing to halve its complaint ratio.

The findings are from the Citizens Advice quarterly energy supplier league table which includes customer complaints data from the 19 largest energy suppliers operating in Great Britain. It finds:

  • There is little difference between the top two suppliers with SSE and EDF Energy posting 39 and 43 complaints per 100,000 customers respectively.

  • Co-operative Energy and Extra Energy performed considerably worse than last quarter and are ranked lowest with 1,584 and 1,164 complaints per 100,000 customers respectively.

  • Scottish Power, which was bottom last quarter, showed signs of improvement with complaints dropping slightly to 740 per 100,000 customers - placing it 17th in the table.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“It’s unacceptable that energy customers are being let down on basic services.

“Good customer service is essential to any effective industry - the fact energy consumers face such a lottery shows this market has a long way to go.

“While it’s encouraging to see some companies sharpening up their act, some firms at the bottom are getting even worse.

“Pockets of improvement aren’t enough - we need to see progress across the board so that every consumer can be confident of receiving a high quality service.”

In order to help consumers save money, Citizens Advice has developed a price comparison tool to make it easier for customers unhappy with their current provider to shop around for better deals.

Sarah Beattie-Smith, consumer policy manager for Citizens Advice Scotland, said:

“The widening gap between customer service standards in the energy sector is not acceptable. Scottish consumers need to have the confidence that they will receive a high standard of service, regardless of their provider.  

“We welcome improvements from those energy suppliers whose complaints have decreased, but for this to boost consumer confidence in the energy market we need a more level playing field. This will require all suppliers to work on their customer service.

“The recent spate of terrible weather has highlighted just how important it is for all households to be able to afford to keep their home warm and to be able to rely on quality service from their energy supplier.  To help consumers find out if they can save money on their energy bills, the Citizens Advice service has developed a price comparison tool.”

This is the second time that Citizens Advice has compared all of the major energy suppliers, previously it was just the Big Six.

Ranking for quarter 3 July - Sept 2015SupplierComplaints about energy supplier per 100,000 customers July - Sept 2015Complaints about energy supplier per 100,000 customers April - June 2015

1

SSE

38.9

47.7

2

EDF Energy

43.3

64.3

3

Green Star Energy

49.1

97.4

4

E (Gas and Electricity)

55.7

5

British Gas

86.4

82.8

6

E.ON

89.9

88.8

7

Utilita

98.3

116

8

Economy Energy

110.4

141.3

9

Utility Warehouse

118.1

118.6

10

Ecotricity

124.8

70.2

11

Ovo Energy

137.1

122.5

12

Good Energy

149.4

91.2

13

Flow Energy

227.1

169.7

14

First Utility

455.9

420.6

15

Spark Energy

482.8

518.2

16

npower

690.1

577.1

17

ScottishPower

740.3

944.3

18

Extra Energy

1164.4

769.5

19

Co-Operative Energy

1584.1

645.1

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

-ends-

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. Complaints made to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service,  the Extra Help Unit and Ombudsman Services: Energy are weighted differently to reflect the severity of the complaint. For more details, please consult the methodology.
  3. Citizens Advice has a statutory remit to publish the energy supplier performance data. Citizens Advice took over this role on 1 April 2014 when Consumer Futures became part of Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.