Complaints about energy providers surged by almost a quarter last year, compared to 2014, a report from the energy ombudsman has revealed.
Chief among the complaints were issues to do with billing, both in terms of timing and accuracy, with the two issues accounting for 80% of all complaints registered.
A further 9% of complaints were regarding problems to do with switching, both from one provider to another, and from one tariff to another with the same provider.
As well as being up by 23% from 2014, at 65,168 the number of complaints is around five times the amount received in 2012, when the ombudsman dealt with just over 11,000 independent problems.
Lewis Shand Smith, the chief energy ombudsman, said: “energy complaints rose by nearly a quarter over the course of last year as customers continue to be more vocal about their discontent with suppliers.”
However, despite the overall annual increase, some signs of positive change were seen over the last quarter of 2015, when complaint levels were actually 29% lower than they were in 2014.
On this point, Shand Smith said: “towards the end of the year, we’ve seen some suppliers take some encouraging steps, particularly when it comes to improving their billing processes, but there’s still more that can be done.”
A full breakdown of complaints per company has yet to be released, but we can reveal that for the last quarter of the year, Scottish Power were the supplier who received the largest number of complaints at 4,554 – which represented a 27% increase on 2014.
British Gas received the third highest number of complaints (at 1,305) but they were one of the few of the Big Six to actually report a drop compared to 2014, when they received 1% more complaints.
Energy providers have been coming under fire at an increasing rate recently, largely for overcharging customers consistently.
Last week E.ON announced a price cut of 5% on gas for customers signed up to its standard tariff, but was widely criticised for not going far enough. Many have been pointing to the huge drops in wholesale prices for gas and electricity and are wondering by these cuts are not being passed down to customers. E.ON’s 5% cut has been described as a step in the right direction, but a small one given the fall in wholesale prices for gas and electricity over the last year of 37% and 23% respectively.
Ofgem chief executive, Dermot Nolan, weighed in, telling the BBC in a radio interview that “I think they [large energy providers] are overcharging in many cases. We really should be getting bigger retail cuts than we have seen so far.”
Smith made a plea to customers to make sure that they do come forward with any issues that they have with their energy providers. He said: “we encourage anyone experiencing an ongoing issue to speak to us – be it for advice or resolution, we’re here to help and our complaints process is easy to use and free to consumers.”