Rising energy bills appear to have led to an increase in the number of complaints about energy suppliers with five of the Big Six receiving an increased number of complaints.
The watchdog, Consumer Focus, said complaints about energy companies have increased during the third part of 2011 with EDF Energy receiving the most. ScottishPower was the only Big Six energy supplier not to see an increase in the number of complaints. The number of complaints about EDF Energy however, increased by 91% compared with the same period in 2010.
The Consumer Focus rating system works by giving each supplier a star rating based on how many complaints they receive. Both nPower and E.ON dropped a star while EDF became the first energy company to receive a zero star rating – this happens when a supplier receives 150 complaints of more per 100,000 customers.
Consumer Focus gave nPower two stars and E.ON three stars while Scottish & Southern Energy received five stars, even though complaints increased by 13%.
All of the Big Six energy companies have put up gas and electricity prices this year – not just domestic prices but business electricity prices and gas tariffs too. Consequently it’s not surprising that complaints about energy suppliers have increased in the third quarter.
The director of external affairs at Consumer Focus, Adam Scorer, said “It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that complaints on energy issues have risen at a time when energy bills are increasing. Energy companies have repeatedly said they want to rebuild consumer trust. Good customer service and complaints handling are key ingredients to building consumer trust, but suppliers still have a long way to go”.
One of the biggest bug bears for customers was back billing. This is when a consumer is undercharged for a period of time and then receives a higher bill to make up for the underpayment. Complaints also increased over the inability of customers to get in touch with their supplier on the phone and over 90% of these complaints involved EDF Energy.
EDF Energy said it was in the process of implementing a new billing system and as a result there had been a number of complaints and problems with communication.
In a statement EDF said “Despite careful planning and the recruitment of over 700 additional customer service staff to protect our service levels to customers through the transition, our customer services operated to a lower standard between May and September. In particular, answering calls to our customer service agents took longer than expected”.
Explaining how they tried to improve the situation the statement continued, “As soon as delays occurred we recruited an additional 400 service staff, which naturally took time to become effective, and we slowed down our plan to move customers on to the new system to ensure service levels were stabilised and restored. The actions taken and investments made are paying off and the service to our customers is improving”.
If domestic and business gas prices and electricity prices continue to increase then undoubtedly complaints will continue to go up.