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11 energy firms in hot water over complaints handling

Eleven energy firms have been rapped by Ofgem over how they handle complaints, after the regulator found more than half of customers remain unhappy with how issues have been dealt with.

Following its latest complaints handling survey, Ofgem has opened compliance cases into First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita over poor handling of customer complaints, and is expanding an existing case with Scottish Power.

It has also ordered seven other suppliers – British Gas, Co-operative Energy, E.on, EDF, Npower, SSE and Utility Warehouse – to come up with plans to improve complaints handling.

Check out our guide for more information about how to complain to your energy firm.

What did Ofgem find?

Between February and April this year, Ofgem conducted a survey of more than 3,000 domestic customers plus 703 micro-business customers who had lodged complaints in late 2017.

It surveyed customers from the big six energy firms, and from the largest medium suppliers: Co-op Energy, First Utility, Ovo Energy, Utilita and Utility Warehouse, as well as Opus (for micro-business complainants only).

Ofgem found that satisfaction with how complaints are dealt with has improved since 2016, with almost a third (32%) of domestic customers satisfied with how their complaint was dealt with. This is an increase of five percentage points from 2016 (27%).

However, the survey found that the proportion of customers who are dissatisfied (57%) remains higher than those satisfied with how their complaint had been dealt with.      

The main contributors to high levels of dissatisfaction were the length of time taken to resolve the issue, not being kept up to date with the progress of the complaint and suppliers not providing complainants with a clear view of how long the resolution will take.

What does Ofgem say?

Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: "Although the level of satisfaction about complaint handling has increased over the past two years, it is still unacceptably low. 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.

"We are ready to – and will – act against those who fail their customers."

What do the energy companies say?

An Ovo Energy spokesperson said: "We are always open to improvements and are confident that through working with Ofgem we can continue to build on our extremely high standards and swift resolution of issues.

"We pride ourselves on great customer service and will be interested to receive the details of the customer responses from this survey, so that we can establish the reason for the scores."

A spokesperson from Utilita said: "Ofgem's survey was conducted earlier this year and related to customer complaints dating back to November 2017.

"At that time we had already begun overhauling some of our processes as part of our ongoing commitment to continuously monitor and improve them.

"We know we can always improve, and we will take on board any legitimate criticism. However, we are really pleased with the progress we have made this year."

A First Utility spokesperson said: "It's right that Ofgem is holding the industry to account over customer service on behalf of consumers.

"Its report highlights significant improvements made in our complaints handling performance over the past two years and we look forward to reassuring Ofgem as we continue that improvement."

A spokesperson from Scottish Power said: "We are pleased the survey shows we are the most improved company for complaint handling satisfaction, but we know we still have further to go.

"We will continue to work with Ofgem as we roll out new complaint handling processes and training to further speed up our progress. Meanwhile, our overall service levels continue to improve, as shown across a range of external surveys and scorecards."

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