Which? uncovers four million household energy complaints

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Which? uncovers four million household energy complaints

11 January 2012

Consumers missing out on millions in unclaimed compensation every year

The six major energy suppliers* received over four million customer complaints in 2011**, according to new research from Which?. The most common problems people reported to us were billing and meter problems, including mistakes on bills, inaccurate meter readings and missing bills.

The consumer champion’s annual energy company satisfaction survey also paints a bleak picture***. Good Energy tops the table with the highest customer score (84%)****, followed by Utility Warehouse (78%) and Ecotricity (77%). Of the larger companies, SSE comes first with a customer score of 51%, and Npower comes last with only 41%.

Despite the low levels of satisfaction and high level of complaints, in an industry where very little should go wrong with the product itself, 90% of unresolved complaints do not go to the energy ombudsman for resolution. Which? has calculated that this means consumers could be missing out on £4 million a year in unclaimed compensation*****.

Even this could underestimate the scale of the problem, as 40% of people told Which? that they have had a problem with an energy supplier in the last two years******, but almost a quarter (23%) of those did not make any complaint.

At present, energy companies only have to publish the number of complaints that are still unresolved by the end of the next working day*******. But this fails to show how many complaints suppliers receive, how long a complaint took to resolve or what the complaint was about. Which?, as part of its Affordable Energy Campaign, wants the regulator, Ofgem, to force energy companies to report this information publicly.

Throughout 2012 Which? will be publishing new ratings of the performance of energy suppliers in key areas, including sales and marketing, tariffs, billing and account management. This is to help suppliers improve their performance and standards, and provide customers with the essential information they need to choose their energy supplier alongside price comparison data for the whole of the market at the UK’s only not-for-profit switching site, Which? Switch.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director says:

“These findings reveal shockingly high levels of complaints and low levels of customer satisfaction in the energy industry, at a time when domestic bills have gone through the roof.

“The Government must do more to answer fundamental questions about why the energy market is allowed to work against the consumer interest. The small energy companies perform much better than the larger suppliers in our survey. If this was a properly functioning and competitive market, they would be giving the major suppliers a run for their money, instead of struggling to grow.

“Ofgem, the regulator, should publish the truth about the full level of complaints in this essential service. Energy suppliers should be held publicly accountable, on a regular basis, for putting right the problems their customers are reporting.

“It is a sign of the level of frustration with this industry that so many people have a problem but don’t complain, even when they could be missing out on compensation. It is important that dissatisfied customers complain directly to their supplier first. But if your supplier doesn’t sort the problem out, it’s worth contacting the energy ombudsman. The vast majority of complaints it receives are upheld, with an average compensation payout of £125.”

For more information on how to complain to your energy supplier, Which? has published a new online guide at http://www.which.co.uk/switch/energy-advice/how-to-complain

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/press/press-releases/campaign-press-releases/energy/2012/01/which-uncovers-four-million-household-energy-complaints-/#ixzz1jFLrUg6M
Consumer Champions Which?
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