Revealed – the energy companies putting customer service on hold

New Which? research has found that some energy suppliers are leaving their customers with shocking call waiting times, with one leaving us hanging for up to 30 minutes.

Researchers made 312 calls to 26 energy companies and were left waiting on hold for an average of between just 27 seconds by fastest responding company Bulb, up to 14 minutes and 18 seconds by E.ON before being put through to a human.

The single fastest pick up time was also from Bulb at a speedy 10 seconds, in stark contrast to the single longest wait time from Spark Energy who kept a researcher on hold for 30 minutes and 40 seconds on one occasion.

M&S Energy came in as the second fastest provider, taking just 41 seconds on average to speak to a human in customer services, followed by Ebico which took 45 seconds.

Languishing at the bottom of the table, were four of the Big Six with E.ON the worst offender taking an average of 14 minutes and 18 seconds. British Gas was the second slowest averaging a 9 minute and 33 second wait, followed by SSE as the third slowest with an average waiting time of 8 minutes and 18 seconds. NPower was fourth slowest and only slightly faster, taking 7 minutes and 36 seconds to answer the phone to customer services. OVO Energy had the fifth longest average wait at 7 minutes and 32 seconds while Iresa, First Utility and Sainsbury’s Energy took over 6 minutes to answer the phone.

Scottish Power was the fastest of the Big Six suppliers to pick up the phone, keeping researchers waiting under 2 minutes on average to get through to customer services.

However, the research found it was much quicker to get hold of providers via live chat. While only eight of the companies that we investigated provided this feature (British Gas, Bulb, EDF Energy, Eon, First Utility, Npower, Spark Energy and Utilita) waiting times were much faster, ranging from 4 seconds with Utilita to 2 minutes and 32 seconds with Bulb. EDF, First Utility and NPower all had average response times of less than 20 seconds.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Services, said:

“It’s unacceptable that the worst performing energy suppliers keep their customers waiting on the phone for so long.

“If you are unhappy with the service that you’re getting from your current energy provider you should consider switching to another supplier.”


Notes to Editors:

  • Which? conducted a mystery shop of 26 energy companies’ telephone customer services in England, Scotland and Wales, calling each 12 times at set times of the day, and timing how long it took us to get through to a human. This was a total of 312 calls
  • This is a snapshot investigation, the figures in the table represent the median average waiting times during the two week undercover investigation in September and October 2017.
  • A high resolution version of our table can be found here:
  • The fastest single pick-up time overall to an energy company’s customer services in England, Scotland and Wales in this year’s investigation was 10 seconds, from Bulb, while the slowest single waiting time was 30m40s from Spark Energy

Live Chat

  • The 8 companies that provided live chat were British Gas, Bulb, EDF Energy, Eon, First Utility, Npower, Spark Energy and Utilita.
  • Fastest median average response time (based on the occasions live chat was available) was 4 seconds, from Utilita (5 chat sessions).
  • Four companies (EDF, First Utility, Npower and Utilita) all had average response times of less than 20 seconds.
    Slowest average response time was from Bulb (2m32s).
    The worst companies for live chat being unavailable were Utilita (13 occasions) and Eon (12 occasions).
  • Spark Energy’s live chat was available every time we tried it.
  • The data from the satisfaction survey (based on 3,574 members of the GB general public who have contacted their energy supplier in the last year) revealed that 66% of people typically phoned their energy supplier, 18% emailed and only 9% used live chat.
  • Consumers looking for a better deal can compare deals with Which? Switch, a transparent and impartial way to compare energy tariffs and find the best gas and electricity provider for your needs

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