Power company complaints soar faster than energy bills

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Complaints about the “big six” energy firms soared by 26 per cent over the summer as hostility against the sector continued to mount, a watchdog has said.

Just one firm – ScottishPower – saw complaints drop on the previous quarter, while EDF Energy was rooted to the bottom of Consumer Focus’s league table after a near-75 per cent leap in customer grievances between July and September.

The London-based firm, which became the first supplier to have a zero star rating, issued an apology to customers after admitting the introduction of new billing systems had affected its performance.

The industry-wide surge in complaints follows a period when all the major firms announced bill increases for the winter and as the regulator Ofgem stepped up its pressure on firms to address issues such as overly complex tariffs.

Consumer Focus director Adam Scorer said: “It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that complaints on energy issues have risen at a time when energy bills are increasing.

“Energy companies have repeatedly said they want to rebuild consumer trust. Good customer service and complaints handling are key ingredients to building consumer trust but suppliers still have a long way to go.”

The data is based on complaints that have been weighted to reflect their seriousness and the time and effort spent by the consumer to get their problem resolved.

EDF’s new systems caused billing issues for customers, some of whom were unable to get through on the phone with problems, even though the company took on 700 additional customer service staff to cope with the transition period.

Price increases varied across the industry, with Scottish Power increasing the price of gas by the highest margin with a 19 per cent rise.

Electricity was pushed up the most by British Gas with a 16 per cent increase.

EDF’s rises of 15.4 per cent for gas and 4.5 per cent for electricity were the smallest increases overall.