Complaining customers ‘forced’ to desert big six energy firms

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The largest energy suppliers in Britain don’t manage their clients’ complaints. The situation goes so far that nearly half of the people who complain choose to switch a provider.

As a biennial survey by Ofgem shows, the level of satisfaction with how the troubles are handled falls down, even though the whole amount of complaints became 50% less since 2014.

The worst situations are at npower, ScottishPower and First Utility; some other companies like SSE, E.ON and EDF Energy have also shown terrible trouble-handling skills.

The new survey also includes medium-sized energy supply companies, but the worst by all the ratings became one of the Big Six – npower. The part of their clients that was strongly dissatisfied with the company increased from 43% to 67%.

SSE continued to have the highest levels of satisfaction out of those surveyed but its results and those of British Gas, E.ON and EDF stayed broadly the same as they were two years ago.

Ofgem said it had found some areas where suppliers performed well, with 77 per cent of domestic complainants acknowledging that it was easy to find the right contact details to lodge a grievance, up from 65 per cent in 2014.

However, things often went downhill after this initial contact. Only a third of those surveyed were given a named contact and did not always receive a follow-up call at the agreed time. At the end of the complaints process, 42 per cent of those whose case had been closed by the supplier considered it unresolved, in line with the previous survey’s findings.

Fifty-two per cent of all complainants surveyed had switched or were planning to switch as a result of their experience. This compares with 44 per cent of domestic complainants and 47 per cent of small businesses in the previous survey. Suppliers with the highest proportion of complaints suffered the biggest number of defections.

Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, has written an open letter to all the suppliers surveyed to demand that their service improves. He has also asked First Utility and Utility Warehouse, the worst-performing second-tier suppliers, to conduct and publish a thorough independent audit of their complaint-handling procedures.

E.ON pays for missed meetings

E.ON has agreed to pay £3 million in compensation and penalties after the energy group’s agents missed appointments with customers (Katherine Griffiths writes).

The payments follow a ruling by the energy regulator Ofgem after E.ON admitted that it had missed about 35,000 appointments between 2011 and 2015 with customers who were left waiting at home.

At the time, suppliers were required to pay a rate of £20-£22, depending on whether it was for gas or electricity, for a missed appointment. If the supplier failed to pay the amount within ten days, the amount would double.

E.ON has managed to trace 24,000 affected customers and paid them £44 each, or £1.2 million in total, for when its engineers failed to visit their homes and fix faults, install meters and take readings.

The company is also handing £1.9 million to energy charities, including some that help people from the armed forces and other service personnel through the National Energy Action’s “Help for Heroes” scheme.

Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, said: “E.ON fell well short of the high standards we expect for consumers when it missed appointments and then failed to compensate customers.”

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