In a letter addressed to energy suppliers, Head of energy regulator Ofgem, Dermot Nolan, highlighted an industry-wide failure to meet the needs of consumers when it comes to complaints handling.
According to research carried out by the regulator, 57% of the British public was dissatisfied with the way in which energy providers handle complaints. Close to half of households which have issued a complaint remain dissatisfied even after their energy supplier considers the complaint resolved.
Changes needed in next three months
Nolan’s letter called for energy companies to handle complaints quicker and more effectively, labelling the results from the study as “awful”. He also wrote to each energy supplier telling them they had three months to carry out an audit of their complaints handling procedures.
He singled out npower and ScottishPower as performing particularly badly, according to the survey. Both companies responded with ScottishPower blaming issues on a new IT system and npower said it had made significant progress in the area since the survey was carried out in February.
Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, acknowledged the gravity of the issue and said: “Handling complaints well is a must. Suppliers are committed to improving and a programme of change is under way.”
Small suppliers named as well
Ofgem’s letter also warned that the issue went beyond the big six and that small energy suppliers were also guilty of poor complaint handling. Ofgem’s letter makes it clear that the entire energy industry needs to do better.
Speaking on the research, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy, said: “Energy prices are up by a third since 2010 and people are now paying well over £1,000 a year to heat and light their homes.
“Energy is a basic essential for every household so firms need to do everything they can do get their service right and if something does go wrong, do their utmost to fix it straight away.”