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Energy giants bury soaring complaints figures

Npower fares worst, with EDF Energy and British Gas both reporting huge year-on-year increases. Scottish Power failed to meet the deadline.

Energy giants bury soaring complaints figures

Complaints about energy companies have soared in the past year, new figures reveal. 

Npower, which was fined £2 million this week for complaint handling failures, topped the table with the highest number of complaints in the past 12 months. EDF Energy and British Gas, owned by Centrica (CNA.L), reported huge increases of 40% and 30% respectively compared with last year.

Energy regulator Ofgem requires all energy companies to publish annual customer complaint records for the year ending 31 September by 31 October.

Scottish Power, however, which received the most complaints out of the Big Six suppliers last year, failed to meet Ofgem’s deadline of 31 October for the second year in a row. According to Consumer Focus, its figures should go live today.

With less than one complaint per 1,000 customers and a 20% improvement on last year, Ecotricity came out top of all the suppliers. The smaller supplier has also taken it upon itself to produce a complaints league comparing all suppliers, which Ofgem refuses to provide.

Complaints per 1,000 customers 2010 2011 % change
Npower 16.8 18.45 10%
Ovo 22.5 13.04 -42%
British Gas 9.54 12.37 30%
E.ON 12.1 12.16 1%
Scottish and Southern Energy 10.64 12.1 14%
EDF Energy 6.32 8.86 40%
Good Energy 9.56 5.81 -40%
Green Energy 5.2 3 -42%
Ecotricity 0.69 0.55 -20%
Scottish Power 18.06 missing missing
Co-operative n/a missing n/a
Utility Warehouse missing missing missing
First Utility missing missing missing

According to Consumer Focus, however, these figures are not reliable as they do not represent the total number of complaints received by energy suppliers.

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said: ‘These figures have not been checked or standardised and they only show complaints not resolved within one working day. It is therefore difficult to tell how accurate a picture of overall energy complaints they present.’

‘One of the big issues is that complaints data from energy firms has been unreliable for years. Some have under-reported the number of complaints they receive and some have over-reported,’ she said. ‘The regulator must give strict guidance to suppliers on how they are to produce their complaints data and make sure that it is published in a transparent and comparable way.’

Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, said: ‘Customer service is the one that people have the least amount of information to compare – to actually identify a better service. But it doesn't have to be this way.’ 

‘Most people won’t know that Ofgem require all energy companies to publish their customer complaint records – because they quietly get buried on energy company websites – and customers never see them,’ he said. 

British Gas, for example, published its data half way down the 'codes of practice' page on its website, but to get there you need to go via the about us, corporate responsibility and customer commitment pages. Customers would not know to find it there.

‘Ofgem should be publicly reporting these figures all in the one place, so that customers can make an informed choice when comparing the customer service record of energy suppliers, just like they can when comparing tariffs,’ Vince said.

Just three months ago Ofgem fined British Gas fined £2.5 million for breaching complaints handling regulations, and is currently investigating EDF Energy over similar failings. 

2 comments so far. Why not have your say?


Nov 02, 2011 at 18:30

I've had a running battle with BG which included them lying about an exit fee. I missed a good deal due to the fracas.

OFGEM is worse then useless, a typical Government regulator. High on cost, low on action to help the consumer.

You could see BG waking up to the consumer attack and taking on more responsive customer people. Well done the little people.

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Nov 02, 2011 at 19:19

I switched to EDF ( from British Gas ) in January , it should have been December but there were complications which have never been explained to me by EDF. This is an on line account for dual fuel by monthly direct debit.

I have never received the welcome pack confirming terms and conditions of our contract despite twice receiving verbal assurances this was coming.

It took until June before I was able to provide a meter reading, on line for gas used . The web account only provided a facility for electricity.

I have received one invoice only for electricity during the 10 months. When I e - mailed EDF for an invoice for the gas consumed over this period I received a response " we are only providing an annual statement and will adjust your direct debit payments accordingly" !

Frankly the service level sucks and clearly their only interest in me is easy access to my bank account . I can't wait for the 1 year agreement to complete and I can move on hopefully to a more professional company.

I wrote comprehensively to the Ombudsman with a complaint and received a couple of pamphlets explaing how they operate. A toothless tiger.

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