Energy watchdog investigating suppliers over complaints handling

Britain’s energy watchdog is scrutinising suppliers over their complaints handling after finding more than half of customers remain unhappy with how grievances have been dealt with.

Ofgem has opened compliance cases into First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita over “poor handling” of customer complaints.

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

It follows Ofgem’s bi-yearly survey on complaints handling, which found 57% of customers were dissatisfied with how their complaint had been dealt with.

The survey of more than 3,000 complainants found that just under a third – 32% – were happy with how their grievances were handled, although this was up from 27% since the last poll in 2016.

Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, 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 factors cited by dissatisfied complainants 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.

Ofgem stressed the move to open compliance cases does not mean it has made any findings over non-compliance.

It will report back with its findings in due course.

The survey was carried out in February and April, with 3,080 domestic and 703 micro-business customers who had lodged complaints with their supplier in late 2017.

It covered customers of the Big Six UK suppliers, as well as the largest of the medium-sized providers.

Ofgem recently launched a crackdown on so-called rip-off energy deals, unveiling details of a cap on standard variable tariffs to cut bills for around 11 million households by about £75 on average.

It is set to come into force this winter.

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