There are far too many energy suppliers in the UK that are delivering poor customer service, according to Citizens Advice.
The latest research from the consumer watchdog has revealed that over a quarter of energy firms in the country are offering inadequate customer service, with ten suppliers scoring below 2.5 stars out of 5. The charity’s yearly poll analysed the number of complaints each energy supplier received, how long customers were made to wait over the phone, and how simple their switching processes are. The survey looked at a total of 39 energy suppliers, covering 99% of the market share.
As many as ten energy suppliers have gone bust in the UK in the last 18 months, affecting almost 300,000 domestic customers. However, new regulations will come into effect from next month that will result in more stringent tests for prospective energy suppliers looking to enter the market.
“Today’s rankings continue to show a number of firms struggling to deliver acceptable standards of customer service,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice. “The new rules which come into force next month will oversee new firms setting up as energy suppliers to make sure they’re fully prepared. But there also need to be stricter ongoing requirements and monitoring to tackle existing companies who are not serving their customers well.
“The energy supply market is not the free-for-all it once was. But there is still a gap between those firms who provide excellent customer service, and a significant proportion who are letting consumers down.”
Citizens Advice’s rankings revealed that Nabuh Energy is the worst energy supplier for customer service, scoring 1.65 stars, while SSE topped the charts with a score of 4.6 out of 5. The rest of the bottom five was made up of Eversmart, Utilita, TOTO and OutFox the Market. Some of the most common complaints that the charity received about these suppliers were sudden increases in direct debit, switching to prepayment meters without consent, inaccurate bills, failure to refund credit and being difficult to contact.
“It’s worrying that so many suppliers are receiving poor ratings for customer service,” said Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman. “Our own complaints data reinforces the picture of an energy market that is very much split, with some firms providing excellent service and others causing significant and unacceptable levels of consumer detriment.
“We are seeing many of the same issues highlighted by Citizens Advice, such as failure to return credit refunds and problems with billing. Any consumer with an unresolved energy complaint can escalate the matter to us and we’ll investigate for free, requiring the supplier to put things right if we uphold the complaint. We are keen to work closely with all energy suppliers to help them improve their complaint handling and customer service more broadly.”