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Worst energy suppliers five times more likely to provide inaccurate bills than the best ones, Citizens Advice research reveals

25 Mehefin 2021

There is now a huge chasm between the customer service levels of the best and worst energy suppliers in Great Britain. This is according to the latest edition of Citizens Advice’s energy star rating which ranks domestic suppliers based on customer service.

The charity is warning of a ‘race to the bottom’ among the worst-performing suppliers, as the ratings reveal gaps in several areas, including billing accuracy and ease of contacting suppliers.

Billing errors plague customers with worst suppliers

Inaccurate bills are an all-too-common problem for customers of suppliers ranked in the bottom five of the star rating table. Customers of these companies are five times more likely to get an inaccurate bill from their supplier than customers of the top five suppliers.

The star rating table for January to March 2021 reveals suppliers in the bottom five failed to provide an accurate bill for 15% of their customers, compared to less than 3% for those in the top five.

Across the board, inaccurate bills are an issue. They currently make up more than 40% of the problems energy customers came to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for support with during the last year.

These errors mean people are often charged incorrectly, straining their finances and making it difficult to budget at a time when many already face financial uncertainty due to the pandemic. For people facing debt or unemployment, it can be particularly stressful and add to money worries.

Citizens Advice is warning that suppliers are failing in their most basic obligation to customers as it calls on them to provide accurate bills for customers. The charity is also urging suppliers to protect those at the highest risk of debt by offering tailored and flexible repayment options.

Inaccurate bills not the only problem

The stress created by billing errors is compounded by poor customer service, which leaves people struggling to contact their suppliers to resolve issues.

The star rating table reveals a wide gap in the quality of customer service offered by suppliers in the top five compared to suppliers in the bottom five:
The worst suppliers only respond to 35% of their customers’ emails within two working days, compared to 86% for the best suppliers.
People with the worst suppliers wait on the phone for more than six minutes on average - 3.5 times longer than those with suppliers in the top five.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Providing an accurate energy bill is the most basic aspect of customer service that a supplier can offer and yet many are failing to do this. All companies have a responsibility to deliver the best possible service to their customers and it’s disappointing to see such a wide chasm between those who are taking this seriously and those who are not.

“When customers with billing errors are unable to contact their supplier for help, it can cause immense stress. These problems are even worse for those who are already worried about money. It’s vital that suppliers fix these issues and provide support for those most at risk of debt.”

A graphic comparing the top and bottom 5 suppliers in the star rating table

Adrienne’s* story - ‘I’m constantly wasting my time trying to get in touch with them. Their customer service is horrendous!’

NHS practitioner, Adrienne, switched to People’s Energy when looking for a greener and cheaper energy supplier. She was promised her direct debit would be £75 per month for gas and electricity, but her direct debit payments shot up to nearly £150 after the first month.

Adrienne has since found it difficult to contact her supplier to resolve the issue.

She said: “My husband and I both work long hours and neither of us work from home, so we don't use much gas and electricity. And when we are home we would sooner put on a jumper than turn on the heating.

“I’ve given meter readings and as a result we’re in credit, but my supplier refuses to change my monthly direct debit to reflect our usage. I’m constantly wasting my time trying to get in touch with them. Their customer service is horrendous! Sometimes it takes weeks to get through to them. I had to resort to sending a message via Facebook and that took three weeks to get a response.

“When I finally spoke to someone on the phone they would only agree to lower my direct debit by £20 per month. My contract ends in a couple of months and needless to say I will not be renewing.”

Marie’s* story - ‘I’ve contacted my supplier so many times but no one ever calls me back. It’s been more than eight weeks now.’

Pensioner Marie switched to Orbit under the impression that they would offer her £90 per month bills - much cheaper than the £170 per month she and her husband were previously paying. After a few months, her bill doubled.

She said: “I don't understand why my bill has increased as we’ve been using less energy. My son has looked at the bills and they just don’t add up - they have inaccurate meter readings on them.

“I’ve contacted them so many times and they say someone will get back to me, but no one ever calls me back.

“I have given them more than eight weeks to reply to my billing issue, so now I will be contacting the Ombudsman. Once this is sorted, I will be switching suppliers. I’m a pensioner on a low income, so I can’t afford this.”

*names have been changed to protect identities

Supplier

Rank

Rating for January to March 2021

Stars

Igloo Energy

1

4.65

Outfox The Market

2

4.25

M&S Energy

3

4.20

E (Gas and Electricity)

4

3.94

Octopus Energy

5

3.85

EDF Energy

6

3.85

goto.energy

7

3.70

Co-Operative Energy

8

3.60

So Energy

9

3.55

Avro

11

3.50

Boost Power

10

3.50

Ovo Energy

12

3.45

Zebra Power

13

3.40

Bulb Energy

14

3.35

Green

15

3.30

Affect Energy

16

3.25

ESB Energy

17

3.20

Utility Warehouse

18

3.05

Pure Planet

19

2.95

Together Energy

20

2.90

British Gas

21

2.80

ENSTROGA

22

2.80

Shell Energy

24

2.70

SSE

23

2.70

Good Energy

25

2.65

Utility Point

26

2.60

ScottishPower

27

2.50

E.ON Energy

28

2.45

PFP Energy

29

2.40

Utilita

30

2.15

Ecotricity

31

2.15

Symbio

32

2.05

People's Energy Company

33

1.65

Orbit Energy

34

1.50

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice star rating (January-March 2021) compares energy suppliers' customer service by looking at information from a number of sources. Information about complaints comes from the Citizens Advice consumer service, the Extra Help Unit and Energy Ombudsman. Citizens Advice uses its legal powers to request information on customer service, billing and switching from suppliers. Information on customer guarantees comes from Energy UK. Energy suppliers are given a score out of 5 for each category. 1 is poor and 5 is excellent (a zero score is given if a supplier does not provide the necessary data). Suppliers then receive an overall star rating out of 5. Not all categories are equal with some counting more towards the final score than others. Further information on the methodology can be found here
  2. Data for percentage of accurate bills issued is based on the number of customer accounts issued with an accurate bill within the last 12 months - some customers have both gas and electricity, others have one or the other. An ‘accurate’ bill is defined as a bill that is based on an actual meter read.

  3. The comparison between best and worst suppliers was calculated by comparing the average scores in a given criteria (e.g. percentage or accurate bills issued, percentage of emails responded to within two working days and call centre wait time) for the top five in the table and the bottom five in the table.

  4. Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
  5. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
  6. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
  7. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
  8. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  9. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  10. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.
  11. We helped 2.4 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2020-21. And we had 40 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  12. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.