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Government to clamp down on recurring energy complaints

Plans to give Energy Ombudsman "real teeth" for industry-wide problems and repeat offenders

Along with price, customer service is an important factor to consider when switching energy supplier. If a problem arises with your bill or you find yourself in credit or debit to a supplier, you want the matter dealt with easily and quickly.

When it comes to common issues such as suppliers ignoring customer complaints and making it difficult to reclaim credit on an account, The Government believes giving the ombudsman more power will help solve them.

20 times the number of complaints about worst energy supplier

When issues occur all too frequently, escalate into a larger complication, or are simply not dealt with in a favourable way, many of us exercise our right to complain about our supplier.

Citizens Advice Bureau recently released statistics outlining the extent of these complaints per supplier, with data gathered from Citizens Advice Consumer Service, the Consumer Futures Extra Help Unit, and the Energy Ombudsman Service. It was based on the number of complaints per 100,000 customers between April-June 2015.

The gap between the worst and best performing suppliers was nearly 20 times the complaints volume.

They found that the top five most complained about energy companies were ScottishPower, Extra Energy, Co-Operative Energy, npower and Spark Energy.

The least complained about suppliers were SSE, EDF Energy, Ecotricity, British Gas and E.ON.

The Energy Ombudsman themselves claim that 35,309 complaints were received between January and June this year — up 55% on the same period in 2014. On the whole, this hints at a decline in customer service from energy providers, or perhaps we’ve become less accepting of poor service and more savvy in knowing who to contact.


Government response

DECC has announced that The Government will work with Ofgem and Citizens Advice to widen the Energy Ombudsman’s role — to not only investigate and resolve individual complaints against energy suppliers, but also address poor service on a wider level.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd elaborated on the plans:

“We want to see the Ombudsman’s role going beyond simply resolving individual complaints so that it has real teeth and can work with Ofgem to address industry-wide problems that are making life miserable for consumers, as well as deal with repeated failings of poorly-performing firms. Where companies have developed a pattern of bad behaviour, they will have no hiding place.”

Chief Ombudsman, Lewis Shand Smith also commented:

Ombudsman Services welcomes today’s announcement to enhance redress across the energy sector.

“We believe this represents an excellent opportunity to adopt a new, collaborative approach with industry to improving standards and performance across the retail market.”

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  • Steve

    Is this total complaints? Wouldn’t it be fairer/more helpful to know the ratio of complaints to customers?

  • Frank

    Energy companies can threaten interest charges, court action and credit score defamation to customers who owe them money. Yet when the role is reversed the customer can do very little. I have been trying to get over £600 pounds back from an energy supplier; with the help of Citizens Advice and the Ombudsman for 10 months. Will I get interest? Can I damage their credit score.? I think not. Its time these companies were fined for their actions.

    • Lindum

      Try what this guys does to them – then tell them you’ve done it:

    • Mr miah

      Yeah definitely.. I was with british gas, for a year they never sent a proper bill only estimate. They were sending me £30 bill. Come to the end of the year ive got a 2 grand bill wich I cant afford to pay. So they put me on pay as you go. Very bad customer service

  • diana

    Problems over a long time – must now be 18 months – still not resolved with supplier. Although I have tried and nearly sorted the problem (or thought I had) another ‘technical’ problem occurs. I have, unsuccessfully, tried to work out my bill and what they owe me. Impossible. Now waiting for the ‘back room office’ to reimburse me again.

  • Stuart Nutter

    Scottish Power are SHOCKING…..debited £300 for 1st instalment on a renewed business contract, even though I had been with them 2 years previously using just £70 a month,Tens of phone calls and im still not getting anywhere ,I am not just a customer I am a VICTIM of SCOTTISH POWER..USELESS

    • Deka

      I agree Scottish power are the worst company I have had the misfortune to use, numerous lengthy expensive phone calls to no avail. Took them 4 months to set up a standing order failure to return calls when promised inaccurate meter readings given to previous supplier the list is endless on their incompetience

  • Caroline

    I changed from British Gas to Eon, who sold my details on and I have been receiving spam emails for nearly 3 months now. Not worth the effort to change given the hassle I am undergoing.

  • John

    Have experienced problems with Npower failing to take direct debit payments since November 2014. Now waiting for them to remove a credit marker from my credit record which they had the cheek to implement for failure to makes payments. I can appreciate problems occur but the customer service from Npower has been


  • Mrs Matthews

    Extra Energy have behaved deplorably since I joined them a year ago. One year later and I still had not recieved a bill so I decided to leave, surprise surprise it transpires that they owe me over £300 and no sign of it being returned any time soon as they do not repsond to telephone calls, emails or letters! Be warned!

    • Alison Kostiew

      I’ve been going through the same thing with Extra Energy. Shoddy and useless is an understatement. Worst company I have ever dealt with.

      • robert carson

        I don’t think they really exist. I can’t get them to answer the phone – even when I keep in ringing for 30 minutes.

        • Mrs Matthews

          I think Ofgem should take note. Thanks for sharing your same shambolic stories of Extra Energy, I think it’s time Watchdog got involved too, no other industry would get away with it!

      • Mrs Matthews

        Oh my gosh, how much do they owe you? Have you ever managed to get a response?

      • Philip Read

        Same here. They are abysmal. After one year of emailing without response and broken promises when we finally get did through on the phone, we are switching back to E.on. Extra Energy are to be avoided at all costs!

  • Pete

    I was with Scottish Power in January and decided to move to First Utility in February, as they were offering a far cheaper deal. However SP would not transfer my Gas account to FU and were determined to retain my Gas energy. I tried umpteen times via email, Mobile texts and phone calls to try to resolve the matter all with no joy. This carried on until late July when I was so annoyed that I decided to leave both SP & FU and switch to Sainsbury’s Energy. Giving all 3 companies my meter readings taken on the 13 August.
    Every thing seemed to be moving slowly and FU decided that they would get the Gas power back from SP. So we are now back in the same situation as we were before, with FU having the Gas and Sainsbury’s Energy with the Electricity Power. We have now been advised by FU that they are in the process of switching the Gas Power to SE. Hopefully it will all now be switched to SE but as we have not received any final bills or Credits from either SP or FU so we have absolutely no idea whether we are in debt or credit with either companies. I will give them until the end of October and if it is still unclear I will contact the Ombudsman and see if they can sort it out for us.



  • Steve Fontaine

    Scottish power service abysmal
    Erroneous transfer better known as e.t.
    An absolute fiasco.
    There all in it together you can be transferred back after your switch months later without your knowledge or permission and never get an explanation.
    E.t. custo.we charter a waste of time no on honours what it says.

  • Lindum

    If you want a laugh at the insanity of Brotish Gas – here’s a guy who knows how to embarrass them – it’s quite entertaining :

  • L J

    Npower tried to bill us weeks after we left a property. Weird because we’d had a pre paid meter and left around £20 in credit on the day we moved and posted the key back the same day. Years later we found that that ‘bill’ had fouled our credit rating despite the fact that they were in the wrong. No apology came forth with our complaint.
    Recently we moved again to a property with NPower as its supplier so we switched as soon as we could. the switch took place around 10 days after we moved in but, despite our providing the meter readings over and over, we are still being asked for an estimated bill. We are now in touch with OFFGEM to resolve the matter.
    Don’t touch NPower with a bargepole.

  • kris kumar

    I changed from BG to Co op Energy about two years ago. My bills went down and I signed for another contract but that appeared to be more expensive and I complained to Coop and they have put me on a different contract. I hope this new contract will be cheaper than I signed on. I did not have to pay any penalty for the swap but I will have to pay £60 if I decide to go some where else during the contract. I can not complain about Co op Energy as they have been reasonable with me except slightly slow in respond.

  • Robson

    I tried for 5 months to get a refund on £1500 credit from Npower this year. I eventually gave up after dozens of phone calls and emails and several letters to the CEO. They never took the action to rectify things they promised.
    Its treatment of me as a customer for years has been appalling.

  • sarah

    It appears and it is my experience with Scottish Power that they really do have ALL the power as well as My money. They profess that they return customers money if a customer is in credit of £75 +. Hum NO because at one point they owed me nearly £1,000. I asked for it back three times by various methods – no reply. Well it got worse. They also billed me for my neighbours use! I complained and guess what nothing happened other than them saying they could not refund my money because there is now an on going dispute. And this is all down to allegedly “technical problems.” I just don’t understand why this energy company are so incompetent and why they are allowed to get away with it. If the boot was on the other foot they would have cut me off my supply, sent the bailiffs in or damaged my credit worthiness.

    • Stuart Nutter

      I agree …Scottish Power are totally useless at sorting out complaints,i rang trading standards in Scotland to complain and they were just as useless.SHOCKING …I am a VICTIM of Scottish Power as well as a very unhappy customer

  • Patricia Kouassi

    They say there is less complaints about E-ON, rubbish, Just go on line and se how many complain. Their way is sprat to catch a macheral. Pages of complaints and all on the same theme. Offer you a low monthly rate and then after some months state you own them money!!!!!! I was paying £65 they set it] a month and suddenly one quarter they took £143 from my account. Similar to others . They then play around how many units you are going to use for the coming winter months!! I used trhe same when I was with British gas but E-on wanted over 7500 units more per year. Yes the meter was read. I am back to British Gas

  • Michaela

    The ombudsman doesn’ t really do anything anyway, its a complete waste of time. After my complaint to Npower I sent a package of information, print outs about my grievances that Npower acted, by not acting, resulting in the gross mismanagement of my account with them. I was complaining also about the deceptive misinformation that led to my decision to go with a Npower tarriff that was completely wrong for me. I was tricked into it by their ‘offer’ of low monthly payments. This left me with a sky high balance when I switched to First Utility a year later. The ombudsman did not return the package to me that included detailed sequence of events and statements that did not alert me to any serious debt building up and then each subsequent date that Npower took the full amount out of my bank account after agreeing that I pay installments, this happened three time. The ombudsman email said it could only act on bad customer service and that as my grievance was about how long I was on hold during telephone conversations it something they could not comment on. I never stated that ‘being on hold for long periods of time’ was my complaint, and what is a grossly mismanaged account if not bad customer service????. Npower gave me a cheque of £50, the highest compensation amount they are allowed to give. Even though I paid the amounts due every month without fail I was left with a bill for £1645. As the ombudsman can find no one in their offices to take my complaint seriously I am left with paying £50 back to Npower for the next three years. My account finished with Npower in April this year, and now I have no other choice but to go along with this, even though I moved to a very much lower tarriff (per kw) and higher (realistic) monthly payment with First Utility I still have to find the money for monthly pay backs to Npower. My advice is DO NOTrely on the Big providers to give you value for money, or to assume that a tarriff they offer you is one that is good for you. Get someone who knows the industry, PAY them if you need to, to go through the blinding amounts of the numbers and tarriff information to makes sure you are getting the best out of what is available. There really needs to be a service that does this for us, the general public, because understanding this TARRIFF stuff, is made so difficult that we are bound to make the mistakes and fall into the traps. We are not stupid, its just that because we don’t work in this industry we are ignorant of the pitfalls. A service such as this, if it was available, would save us from the complete waste of time of having to go to the ombudsman and then being told that they can’t comment on the amount of time we have been kept on hold, something we are not even complaining about.

  • selth

    I have been with OVO for several years and have NO complaints – they answer the phone and their rep is always attentive and helpful, although I suppose that only having an electricity account does make it simpler (oil for heating).

  • Mark

    Some years ago the ombudsman failed to be interested when my wife and I were both being direct debited for the same bill, also being debited for a house we had moved from (despite us and the new owners repeatedly informing them) and not recognising that a modern meter was in the house so the numbers were being charged with the wrong units. We were desperate to change supplier and to move house so we ended up out of pocket over £800 after just £600 of !400 was refunded for the double payments alone. The banks were equally unhelpful about stopping the direct debits or back-dating to when we first asked them when we began closing our accounts and they suddenly discovered they could stop direct debits. If British gas were the only energy supplier, I would go off grid.

  • RAY


  • RAY

    They don’t care of charges from your bank because they took your money week before or care , they still add more charges BECOUSE I PAY WHEN I CHOOSE TOO, THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP MY FOOD MONEYS MY MONEY SAFE , THEY DO NOT GIVE REASON OR WHY .

  • Liz

    I have had the same experience as other with Extra Energy. Was with them for a year and no bill, despite my submitting meter readings at regular intervals. I made numerous phone calls to their so called customer services department and they never answer. Finally moved my account to First Utility, now arguing about the bill with extra energy and they totally refuse to co-operate. During the twelve months with them, my online bill has shown varying balances through the year, but once they change it, there is no trail of what they have done. DONT TOUCH THEM Liz Shipp

  • Patricia

    Had awful time with Npower, they increased my direct debit by £200 without telling me and based on an (hugely wrong!) estimated bill. Then when I sent correct meter readings their Head of Customer Services refused to believe them even when I sent a photo! After complaining again and again it was finally sorted out and my money returned. I’ll be switching!

  • Philip Read

    I seriously doubt any other company could be so poor as ExtraEnergy. Keep away from them. They are completely dreadful. Customer service is an alien concept to them. Truly awful.

  • sarah

    What can we do as consumers against these giants? The ombudsman it seems tends to support the companies. It feels that I just have to accept that I will not get any of the money that Scottish Power owe me and I have to continue to pay my nieghbours bill. Scottish Power have now cut off all communication except the bit where they take the money out of my account.

  • Pigs_Might_Fly

    Extra Energy “customer service” is an oxymoron!
    It is mow 2.5 months since I left them. It took 5 web contacts and a written letter threatening a complaint to OFGEM, for them to produce a final bill. That took 2 months!. I’m due a refund, Same story – ignored web contact requests and emails for a long, long , time, then promised my refund by 27th. November. True to form it’s not arrived. Two phone calls, two promises to ring back. Yes you guessed it – no calls back.
    Utterly useless lot.

    • Superkev

      We left Exra Energy at a similar time. They failed to produce any accurate billing throughout the year I was with them. Phoned them up and even requested a bill at one time to no avail. They just don’t simply keep up with their billing and if you speak to their customer services when you eventually get through nothing happens. I had to resort to my own spreadsheet to work out our bill and what we owe them. I’m still waiting for the final bill, but fortunately we owe them about £300. So hope when it eventually arrives the amount matches I await hopefully.

  • Frank

    eFinally after 11 months of trying I have finally got my money back from AXIS Energy. But the Ombudsman think they acted fairly!! Can’t believe they came to that conclusion! when Axis had all the information to repay me in January 2015. Until, I found out – the Ombudsman is funded by the Energy companies, Very few of the companies get fined by the Ombudsaman. Now I know why. You dont bite the hand that feeds you!
    Despite the evidence from Citizens Advice Extra Help Unit and all my input the Ombudsman totally ignored us and ruled Axis had provided good customer service. It did Ok alright, had my cash for 11 months, and made all the excuses under the sun to drag out the repayment, evn though had photographically evidence in January that bills were wrong and they put my bills UP, when every other energy company was reducing theirs
    To all out there. Keep away from AXIS Energy.
    Does anyone know if it’s possibe to appeal againts the Ombudsman obviuosly biased ruling?

  • Dave H

    As you already know, there is no point in leveying fines to energy companies, in common with rail companies etc they pass them back to the consumer dressed up as operating costs. They are in the business of making large profits for share holders, not providing cheap energy to their customers. Do you moan about the price of bottled water in relation to its cost to the companies that supply it. Can the government who sold your energy company to the private sector intervene, no, no more than they can waltz into the supermarkets and start dictating how much they should charge for bread. Also a certain % of your energy bill is tax for the treasury so the higher the bill the higher the tax. This is private enterprise people, companies charge what the market will bear, don’t belive me, how much did you pay for your Starbucks coffee, your subway sandwich, your smartphone, your bottled water?, well in excess of 100%+ of what it cost the company to provide it to you. Capitalism, you got to love it.

  • Fergus

    I have recently received a letter from NPOWER stating that I have an outstanding bill for and address I previously lived at 1 yr ago. I did indeed live at that address for approx 6 months but had never taken a contract out with them, I used Scottish Power not Npower . To add to this they state that as I have not informed them of my move address they are adding a £7 charge to my account.

    Additional to this they have filed a default with credit reference agencies at the same time as issuing this letter.

    I have called them up to enquire what the bill was in relation to and they state its due for a cross over period when I moved to Scottish Power. They had used estimates given to them by Scottish power which where way off.

    So here is m dilemma, I don’t have an issue paying for the correct amount but how can I be held responsible for advising them of my address if I did not have a contract with them. How can they issue a default notice for an incorrect amount and without any sort of reasonable notice or an actual contract with them??

    Any help out there would be appreciated!

  • Corran Chatfield

    utilita just did this with me but are refusing to call it an erroneous transfer because they are saying they have a valid contract with my housing association, i am the resident i pay the bills, iv been with P4P energy for 5 months and now they switch without my permission and blame a blunder on the system but still refuse to deal with it as a ET. waiting for letter confirming they are not willing to help then will be in touch with ofgem.

  • Corran Chatfield

    im with p4p energy due to a erroneous transfer i got put back to utiltia 5 months into my contract! after getting bounced around 3 or 4 times p4p energy kept making mistakes in transferring me back giving me various start dates and then problem after problem like my gas being switched but not my electricty and have ended up putting me back with them but on a higher priced tariff at 60 quid extra a year! after highlighting the issue they said they have fixed it but logging into my account it shows all they did change the name of my tarrif back to the old one but not the prices, im now paying an extra 15 pound a month for gaas and electricity and also paid a month shadow charge for electricity despite not even being signed up with them, so effectively paying 2 companies for electricity. have been on the phone to them at least 20 times in the last month to try and sort the issue out. highly incompetent staff that have no idea what they are doing and are frustrating to deal with. it is one issue after another i would advise staying well away from both p4p energy and utilita.