Government to clamp down on recurring energy complaints

Plans to give Energy Ombudsman “real teeth” for industry-wide problems and repeat offenders

Along with price, customer service is an important factor to consider whenswitching energy supplier. If a problem arises with your bill or you find yourself in credit or debit to a supplier, you want the matter dealt with easily and quickly.

When it comes to common issues such as suppliers ignoring customer complaints and making it difficult to reclaim credit on an account, The Government believesgiving the ombudsman more power will help solve them.

20 times the number of complaints about worst energy supplier

When issues occur all too frequently, escalate into a larger complication, or are simply not dealt with in a favourable way, many of us exercise our right to complain about our supplier.

Citizens Advice Bureau recently released statistics outlining the extent of these complaints per supplier, with data gathered from Citizens Advice Consumer Service, the Consumer Futures Extra Help Unit, and the Energy Ombudsman Service. It was based on the number of complaints per 100,000 customers between April-June 2015.

The gap between the worst and best performing suppliers was nearly 20 times the complaints volume.

They found that the top five most complained about energy companies were ScottishPower, Extra Energy, Co-Operative Energy, npower and Spark Energy.

The least complained about suppliers were SSE, EDF Energy, Ecotricity, British Gas and E.ON.

The Energy Ombudsman themselves claim that 35,309 complaints were received between January and June this year — up 55% on the same period in 2014. On the whole, this hints at a decline in customer service from energy providers, or perhaps we’ve become less accepting of poor service and more savvy in knowing who to contact.

Government response

DECC has announced that The Government will work with Ofgem and Citizens Advice to widen the Energy Ombudsman’s role — to not only investigate and resolve individual complaints against energy suppliers, but also address poor service on a wider level.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd elaborated on the plans:

“We want to see the Ombudsman’s role going beyond simply resolving individual complaints so that it has real teeth and can work with Ofgem to address industry-wide problems that are making life miserable for consumers, as well as deal with repeated failings of poorly-performing firms. Where companies have developed a pattern of bad behaviour, they will have no hiding place.”

Chief Ombudsman, Lewis Shand Smith also commented:

“Ombudsman Services welcomes today’s announcement to enhance redress across the energy sector.

“We believe this represents an excellent opportunity to adopt a new, collaborative approach with industry to improving standards and performance across the retail market.”

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