Spark Energy referred to Ofgem after surge in complaints

Spark energy may be one of the UK's smallest energy firms, yet it's attracting a huge number of complaints.

Spark Energy, one of the smallest energy companies in the UK, has been referred to the industry regulator after a sharp increase in customer complaints.

The referral came from Consumer Futures, previously Consumer Focus. Ofgem will now need to decide if a full investigation should take place.

The majority of complaints were to do with customers not being able to switch away from the energy firm and problems with poor customer service.

Customer complaints
Spark Energy is a favoured company for landlords and estate agents to use which means tenants are often automatically signed up to the firm when they move into a rented property. Many of the complaints about Spark were from customers living in rented accomodation who had experienced problems when trying to leave the company.

Other issues included the wrong bills being sent out, meter readings not being properly recorded, issues with the online payment system and delays in getting refunds on in-credit accounts.

Ann Gill, spokesperson for Consumer Futures, said: "We were particularly concerned about the nature of complaints that comprised; areas of poor billing practices, customer service failings and problems for customers switching to other suppliers."

Although Spark provides some of the cheapest tariffs on the market, experts believe it may have over-stretched itself leading to these problems.

On Lovemoney we've also reported on Spark Energy's poor customer service and we hope the Ofgem will force it into cleaning up its act.

Ofgem referral
Consumer Futures referred the company to Ofgem after it and Citizens Advice received an increased number of complaints about it.

Last month the BBC also featured the company in a Watchdog investigation. The programme featured several disgruntled customers who had been automatically signed up to Spark Energy when moving into a rented property. They then became locked into a contract through clauses in their contract making it almost impossible to switch to another supplier.

As Ofgem deals with these referrals on a case by case basis there's no timeframe for a decision on whether it will launch a full investigation or not.

Lisa O'Brien, spokesperson for Ofgem, confirmed that the regulator had become aware of consumer concerns regarding some clauses in letting agreements and are looking into these.

In response Kris Jakobsen, director of sales and marketing for Spark Energy, explained that having serviced more than 300,000 customers, it is normal to have a level of complaints.

"We are working very hard to reduce these. In common with all suppliers, Spark Energy works closely with consumer bodies and regulators to ensure our customers' interests are at the forefront of what we do.

"We began a series of improvements last year, including hiring a Director of Customer Experience, who is now leading a programme of initiatives that will enhance the overall experience for our customers," he said.

Switching energy suppliers
Switching suppliers is easy, straightforward and can save you money. However, inevitably – as in the case with Spark – things can go wrong and this can end up being a lengthy process.

To make it less stressful, keep hold of all documentation you receive and make sure you give both your old and new suppliers the correct meter readings. For more information check out our step-by step guide to switching.

On average households can save around £300 when switching so it is worth it. Our energy comparison partner, energy helpline, can show you exactly how much you should be able to save by switching.

How to complain about your energy supplier
When things go wrong with a company instead of sitting back and accepting poor service you can take action yourself.

This is especially important when it comes to energy companies who have massively increased their charges over the past year, but seem to have made little improvement to the service they provide.

In the first instance you'll need to complain to your individual supplier and if this doesn't prove successful then you can go to the Energy Ombudsman. You can find out more in our article – how to complain about your energy supplier.

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