Ofgem launches investigation into customer complaints handling by energy suppliers

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Britain’s energy regulator has begun an investigation into the handling of customer complaints by some energy suppliers after learning that over half of customers were dissatisfied with how their grievances had been dealt with.

Ofgem boss, Dermot Nolan, said ‘considerably more’ needs to be done by some suppliers after the regulator’s bi-yearly survey on complaints handling found that a whopping 57 per cent of customers were unhappy with how their complaint had been dealt with.

The watchdog has now opened compliance probes into First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita over ‘poor handling’ of customer complaints.

Ofgem is investigating energy suppliers after learning extent of customer dissatisfaction

Ofgem is investigating energy suppliers after learning extent of customer dissatisfaction

It also said it is widening an existing case with ScottishPower and has ordered seven other suppliers – British Gas, Npower, Utility Warehouse, SSE, EDF Energy, E.on and Co-operative Energy – to come up with plans to improve complaints handling.

Only 32 per cent of more than 3,000 complainants surveyed were happy with how their complaint was handled. However, this figure has risen since the last poll in 2016 where just 27 per cent said they were happy.

Mr Nolan said: ‘Although the level of satisfaction about complaint handling has increased over the past two years, it is still unacceptably low.

‘Some suppliers need to be doing considerably more to get the basics right and provide a service their customers deserve.

‘We will be monitoring the level of all suppliers’ customer service performance particularly closely after announcing proposals to introduce a price cap to protect those on poor value default deals from being overcharged.

‘We are ready to – and will – act against those who fail their customers.’

The main reasons cited by complainants for their dissatisfaction were the length of time taken to resolve the issue, not being kept up to date with the progress of the complaint, and suppliers not providing a clear view of how long the resolution will take.

Compliance cases have been opened into 3 suppliers over customer complaints handling

Compliance cases have been opened into 3 suppliers over customer complaints handling

The survey compilers spoke to 3,080 domestic and 703 micro-business customers who had lodged complaints with their supplier in late 2017. 

It took place in February and April and covered customers of the Big Six UK suppliers, as well as the largest of the medium-sized providers.

Ofgem will report its findings in due course but emphasised that the move to open compliance cases does not mean it has made any findings over non-compliance. 

Earlier this year, the watchdog introduced a crackdown on so-called rip-off energy deals, revealing details of a cap on standard variable tariffs to cut bills for around 11 million households by about £75 on average.

The cap is set to come into force this winter.

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