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Call waiting times for energy companies hit record levels

New study reveals many customers are kept on hold for close to an hour before they are put through to a representative

ScottishPower's customers are being made to wait up to 53 minutes to speak to an agent

ScottishPower’s customers are being made to wait up to 53 minutes to speak to an agent

Research carried out by the BBC for TV programme “Rip-Off Britain” has revealed the length of time many energy customers are forced to wait before their calls are answered.

According to researchers the long waiting times are linked to a rise in the number of complaints due to suppliers struggling to install new billing systems. ScottishPower and npower customers are those most affected.

Longest wait close to one hour

As part of the research, each of the big six suppliers was called 14 times to determine how long it would take to speak to an agent. The longest wait endured by one of the researchers was 53 minutes with ScottishPower.

The same energy supplier had an average wait of 34 minutes before being connected and the shortest time recorded was 18 minutes. It is worth pointing out that ScottishPower offers a “call back” service, which will have a agent contact the customer as soon as the lines are less busy.

In stark contrast, the researchers found that calls to ScottishPower’s helpline for new customers were picked up within 90 seconds. Calls to the rest of the big six’s new customer phone lines were also picked up more quickly.

ScottishPower apologised to any customers who had found themselves on hold for long periods of time and said this was down to the adoption of a new IT system. The supplier added that hundreds of extra call handlers had been brought in to help deal with the situation and that it had extended call centre opening hours.

British Gas topped the table with an average wait of 2 minutes and 41 seconds, followed by EDF Energy (just under 3 minutes), E.ON (about 3 and a half minutes), SSE (just under 5 minutes) and npower (almost 13 minutes).

‘Energy companies are working hard to improve what they offer’

The trade association for the energy industry, Energy UK, said: “Our members are well aware that customer service – along with attractive deals and prices – is at the heart of what their customers are looking for and it is helping drive the sustained increase in switching we are seeing in the energy sector.

“Energy companies know they are operating in a competitive market and are working hard to improve what they offer.”

Rip-Off Britain aired this morning on BBC One. You can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer.

Read more

Energy suppliers to hand back £153m of unclaimed credit

Big six energy companies see rise in complaints and number of people switching

  • S2Bear

    To be honest thought, that’s why Scottish Power has the “Call back” ability to stop people having to sit on hold for close to an hour. It lets you go about your business and Scottish Power will contact you as soon as someone is available

    • Michele Martinelli

      Hi, that’s a good point – I’ll add it to the piece.

  • Jack Horner

    It would be interesting to know which companies have free phone lines. No point saving £20 a year on bills when you pay it back in premium-rate phone numbers!

    • Mr Whippy

      I don’t know about other companies but Scottish Power’s customer service number is a free phone number. So even if you are on hold for close to an hour, Unlike some companies it’s not costing you anything other than time to contact them.