Revealed: The true picture of energy company complaints

Which? launches a new campaign calling for six fixes for the broken energy market as the first full year of official figures from the Big Six energy companies reveal that they received more than 5.5 million complaints in 2013.

Since October 2012, the biggest energy companies (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.On, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) have published data showing how many complaints they’ve received from customers. From 1st January to 31st December 2013 this totalled 5,579,665 complaints.

The type of customer complaints that the companies receive ranged from issues with bills, metering, customer service, switching through to payment.  Which? is recommending six fixes for the energy market, which includes addressing dwindling consumer trust and asking energy companies to end practices that unfairly increase costs and damage the level of customer service.

Of the 5,579,665 complaints in 2013, Npower received 1,383,650, the most out of all six companies.  They were followed by EDF with 1,240,005, British Gas with 1,235,550 and Eon with 929,230.  Both SSE and Scottish Power received fewer total complaints for 2013 with 482,582 and 308,648 complaints respectively.

The quarter with the highest total number of complaints for all six companies in 2013 was quarter 4 (1st October 2013 31st December 2013) when 1,492,065 were received.

These latest complaints figures from the six companies that account for 97% of the market, are yet another indication that the energy market is not working for its customers.

Which?’s latest consumer tracking shows that eight in 10 are worried about rising energy prices and just one in five trust gas and electricity suppliers.  Which? wants an industry that works for customers as well as shareholders, where prices are kept as low as possible and people can trust companies to give them a good deal.

Which? has launched a new campaign that calls on Government, the regulator, competition authorities and the energy companies to drive forward radical reforms to fix the broken energy market.

We are calling for six fixes to the energy market:

FIX NO.1. INCREASE COMPETITION

FIX NO.2. TRANSPARENT TRADING

FIX NO.3. PEOPLE POWER    

FIX NO.4. COST CONTROL

FIX NO.5. CUSTOMER TRUST

FIX NO.6. WARMER HOMES

We have launched an online petition, calling on people to pledge their support for our campaign and help us to fix the broken energy market.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Millions of people are unhappy with the service they receive from the suppliers which, combined with low levels of trust is yet more evidence that more must be done to fix the broken energy market.

“Next month we want the regulators to refer the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority and launch a full scale inquiry.  This is the first and most important step towards a more radical reform of the energy market, giving hard-pressed consumers the confidence that they are paying a fair price.”

Here’s how Which? would “Fix the Big Six”  and the energy industry:

FIX NO.1. INCREASE COMPETITION

Launch a full competition inquiry into the energy market in March 2014.

  • The OFT, Ofgem and the Competition & Markets Authority should refer the energy market for a full competition investigation looking at whether competition is working for consumers and how it could be increased it through changes to energy company structures to deliver trust, transparency and fair prices.

FIX NO.2. TRANSPARENT TRADING

The big six energy companies’ supply and generation businesses should be separated.

  • Supply and generation businesses should be ring fenced with distinct licence holders.
  • Increase the amount of trading in the wholesale energy market on exchanges to increase liquidity in the market and transparency.

FIX NO.3. PEOPLE POWER

Simple pricing and swifter switching must be introduced to help people get the best deals.

  • Simple, easy to compare pricing should be introduced to help people spot the best deal for them.
  • 7 day switching must be introduced as soon as possible.

FIX NO.4. COST CONTROL

The Government must control costs added to consumers’ bills.

  • The Carbon Floor Price should be frozen or cut at the 2014 Budget.
  • The Government should increase scrutiny of the costs added to consumers bills by programmes such as the Energy Company Obligation and the smart-meter roll-out.
  • Investment in low carbon generation must be secured at the lowest possible cost with competition introduced from day one.

FIX NO.5. CUSTOMER TRUST

Energy companies must end practices that unfairly increase costs and damage customer trust.

  • Energy companies must make sure that charges for not paying by direct debit are cost reflective and should not hold onto high levels of customers’ cash, when they’re in credit.
  • Energy companies must improve the poor levels of customer satisfaction by improving complaints handling and levels of service.

FIX NO.6. WARMER HOMES

The Government should overhaul the Green Deal to make it a fairer deal for consumers.

  • The review of the Green Deal’s first year must identify why it’s appeal is low and set out recommendations to tackle this.
  • Companies should not be allowed to charge large repayment fees if people want to pay off a Green Deal loan early.

Notes to editors:

1.Full results for the companies are below:

Energy companies complaints data Q4-2012 1 Oct – 31 Dec 2012
Total for quarter: 1437800
Company complaints received per 1,000 accounts Total complaints received % resolved on same or next working day % resolved within 8 weeks
Scottish Power

13.59

71042

68%

99%

SSE

14.82

122000

75.22%

96.11%

British Gas

23.08

355998

79.20%

96.30%

EON

30.23

226087

92.30%

97.70%

Npower

40.01

222356

85.21%

97.60%

EDF Energy

80.72

440317

92.30%

99.00%

Q1-2013 1 Jan – 31 Mar 2013
Total for quarter: 1475199
Company complaints received per 1,000 accounts Total complaints received % resolved on same or next working day % resolved within 8 weeks
Scottish Power

15.19

79542

63%

98%

SSE

13.76

113203

74.59%

96.02%

British Gas

22.95

357887

78.80%

95.90%

EON

31.7

234491

92.70%

97.70%

Npower

49.18

269629

87.40%

97.23%

EDF Energy

77.84

420447

90.80%

96.79%

Q2-2013 1 Apr – 30 June 2013
Total for quarter: 1346046
Company complaints received per 1,000 accounts Total complaints received % resolved on same or next working day % resolved within 8 weeks
Scottish Power

16.11

84856

65%

98%

SSE

15.32

125734

65.23%

95.57%

British Gas

16.96

264928

72.10%

93.90%

EON

33.2

244365

92.60%

98.80%

Npower

56.26

301119

86.58%

96.67%

EDF Energy

59.48

325044

88.94%

95.23%

Q3-2013 1 Jul – 30 Sept
Total for quarter: 1266355
Company complaints received per 1,000 accounts Total complaints received % resolved on same or next working day % resolved within 8 weeks
Scottish Power

13.3

69931

62%

98%

SSE

13.35

108924

72.47%

94.76%

British Gas

15.82

247000

71.60%

93.80%

EON

29.36

214614

88.70%

96.60%

Npower

68.67

372776

88.83%

96.57%

EDF Energy

46.46

253110

82.69%

96.13%

Q4 2013 1 Oct – 31 Dec
Total for quarter: 1492065
Company complaints received per 1,000 accounts Total complaints received % resolved on same or next working day % resolved within 8 weeks
Scottish Power

13.99

74319

50%

96.8%

SSE

16.86

134721

72.61%

95.55%

British Gas

24.12

365735

75.90%

96.30%

EON

32.25

235760

81.20%

87.00%

Npower

80.13

440126

87.11%

95.78%

EDF Energy

42.28

241404

82.00%

97.00%

2. Number of complaints per 1,000 accounts received by the big six over the last five quarters, showing improvement over time for EDF Energy and Npower getting worst:

per1000accounts

Comparing the number of complaints for each company according to their market share for this same period, Npower had the most complaints from its customers, (80.13 per 1000 accounts between 1st October-31st December 2013) with Scottish Power receiving the lowest number for the same period (13.99 per 1000 accounts between 1st October-31st December 2013).

3. Total number of complaints received by the big six over the last five quarters, showing a big increase in the period 1 Oct 2013 to 31 Dec 2013:

 

per quarter

4. The definition of a complaint: in energy the complaint handling standards regulations, define a complaint as: ‘any expression of dissatisfaction made to an organisation, related to any one or more of its products, its services or the manner in which it has dealt with any such expression of dissatisfaction, where a response is either provided by or on behalf of that organisation at the point at which contact is made or a response is explicitly or implicitly required or expected to be provided thereafter’.

5. Thanks to work from Which?, the energy providers now have to publish the number of complaints they receive and resolve on their website so it is publically available. See: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2013/02/edf-energy-worst-for-energy-complaints-310759/

6. Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2,061 UK adults online between 3rd and 5th January 2014. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

7. Which? offers advice on how to complain to your energy supplier on our Which? Switch website http://www.which.co.uk/switch/energy-advice/how-to-complain-

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