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Nearly 20 times as many complaints about worst energy supplier

28 September 2015

Citizens Advice publishes first complaints league table of 18 biggest energy firms

Consumers have made nearly 20 times as many complaints about the worst energy companies as they have about the best performing supplier, according to new data from Citizens Advice.

The consumer champion today publishes its quarterly energy supplier league table, which for the first time includes complaints data of the 18 largest energy suppliers operating in the UK market.

Previously the charity has only published the complaints figures of the largest six energy firms.

The findings reveal huge variations in how well energy companies are performing:

  • ScottishPower is still the worst performing supplier, with 944 complaints per 100,000 customers.

  • Extra Energy is the second worst performing supplier with 769 complaints per 100,000 customers.

  • First Utility, Spark Energy, nPower and Co-Operative Energy all have more than 400 complaints per 100,000 customers.

  • SSE is the best performing supplier, with 47 complaints per 100,000 customers, almost 20 times fewer than ScottishPower.

  • Seven suppliers have fewer than 100 complaints per 100,000 customers including EDF Energy, Ecotricity, British Gas, E.ON, Good Energy and Green Star.

Citizens Advice is also publishing a tool for consumers allowing them to compare a much wider set of information about what each energy company offers, including opening hours, how often companies send out bills, and the different ways consumers can contact firms.

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

The charity is calling on poorly performing energy firms to improve customer service. Citizens Advice is also urging the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to use its ongoing investigation into the energy market to ensure all energy customers are treated fairly.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Energy consumers face a customer service lottery.

"We have long called for a more competitive energy market and transparency on complaints across the board can help to support that.

“Consumers need the whole picture on energy suppliers, so they can choose who to buy their energy from on the basis of what’s most important to them whether that’s price or service.  Complaints are a significant part of this, and people will rightly question why some energy firms have nearly 20 times as many complaints as others.

“We welcome the improvements some firms have made on complaints, but the worst performers still have a very long way to go. We urge the CMA to use its ongoing review into the energy market to make sure all energy customers are getting the service they deserve.”

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

"These latest complaints figures confirm what thousands of energy customers already know - that far too many companies are still failing them. Yet again, some of the biggest companies in the market have fallen short of what consumers rightly expect - accurate bills, accessible customer service and fair tariffs. The CMA has a unique opportunity to address these issues and more in its investigation and to ensure even more transparency in energy market complaints."

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 the best performing supplier for Quarter 2, 2015 (April to June)  is at the top and the worst is at the bottom.

Energy league table April-June2015 (1).png

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

  • ScottishPower 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 have been trying to resolve your complaint for eight weeks or have a deadlock letter,  you can raise it with Ombudsman Services: Energy 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. 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 bureau 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.