Ofgem has demanded improvements in how all 11 of the UK’s largest energy firms deal with customer complaints.
A complaints survey by the energy regulator, which is carried out every two years, found that over half of respondents were dissatisfied with how their complaint was managed.
Of the 3,000 people surveyed, all of whom had complained about their energy company in the last year, just over a third were satisfied. This figure was up from 27% in 2016.
Customers claimed that suppliers fail to keep them up to date with the stage of their complaint in the process or give enough information about how long it will take.
Three new “compliance cases” have been opened by the regulator, involving First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita. Its engagement with ScottishPower has expanded, whilst all the other domestic suppliers included in its survey – British Gas, Npower, Utility Warehouse, SSE, EDF Energy, E.On and Co-operative Energy – have been asked to devise plans to improve on their complaints procedure.
Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, criticised energy companies. He said: “Some suppliers need to be doing considerably more to get the basics right and provide a service their customers deserve,
“We will be monitoring the level of all suppliers’ customer service performance particularly closely after announcing proposals to introduce a price cap to protect those on poor value default deals from being overcharged.”
He concluded that “We are ready to – and will – act against those who fail their customers.”
Citizen’s Advice called the situation “simply not good enough”.
Chief executive for the company Gillian Guy said customers need to the assurance that their supplied will deal with energy-related issues when things go wrong.
Despite this, Lawrence Slade of the industry body Energy UK noted that suppliers’ overall performance in complaints proceedings was improving.
He used Ofgem’s own figures which showed that the number of complaints received by suppliers had in fact reduced by nearly 50% since 2014.
He said that Energy UK was working with the industry and Ofgem to see if the rules governing complaints could be improved upon.
“Also, given that the majority of complaints arise from billing issues, the continuing roll-out of smart meters, which ensure accurate and up-to-date bills, will help reduce this number further still,” he added.
However, a fifth of households are “seriously concerned” about their ability to pay to keep their homes warm this winter, according to separate research released on Thursday.
The average “Big Six” variable tariff has spiked to £1,224 a year, following recent price hikes.
Stephen Murray, said for MoneySuperMarket that: “Most of the price rises from the Big Six and emerging suppliers were announced after the winter months, once the heating was already switched off, so it’s only really now that households will start to suffer the impact, as temperatures start to drop and the thermostat gets turned up.”