Ofgem publishes bi-annual survey on how suppliers handle complaints

22 Sep 2016 04:15 PM
  • Number of complaints has halved since 2014 but complainants are less satisfied with how suppliers deal with them
  • Survey compares how suppliers handle complaints 
  • 52% of complainants are voting with their feet and had switched or were planning to switch supplier

Customers who make a complaint are less satisfied with how their supplier handles it compared to two years ago, according to Ofgem’s bi-annual complaints survey. Ofgem commissions a survey every two years which compares how suppliers deal with their domestic and micro-business customers’ complaints. Since complainants were last surveyed in 2014, the total number of complaints has fallen by around half. However, the survey shows that overall levels of satisfaction with suppliers’ complaint handling have fallen significantly since then. The suppliers who came out worst in the survey - npower, Scottish Power and First Utility - recorded the highest proportion by far of “very dissatisfied” complainants. Even the suppliers who fared best – SSE, EON and EDF Energy – failed to show any significant improvement in overall complaint handling since 2014.

The survey painted a mixed picture and found some areas where suppliers performed well. Some 77% of domestic complainants said that it was easy to find the right contact details to make a complaint, up from 65% in 2014. But following this initial contact, complainants’ experience deteriorated. Only about a third of those surveyed were given a named contact at their supplier and did not always receive a follow up at the agreed time. At the end of the process, 42% of complainants whose case had been closed by the supplier thought it remained unresolved, which did not represent a significant change compared to 2014.

More customers are no longer prepared to put up with poor customer service and 52% of all complainants surveyed had or were planning to switch as a result of their experience. This compares to 44% of domestic complainants and 47% among micro-businesses when we last carried out the survey in 2014. Suppliers with the worst record on handling complaints face the biggest exodus of customers. A majority of npower and Scottish Power domestic customers surveyed who complained (71% and 59% respectively) said that they had or were planning to switch as a result of their experience, as did 63% of medium sized suppliers’ complainants.

While Ofgem encourages customers dissatisfied with their supplier’s complaint handling to vote with their feet, as energy is an essential service, suppliers must provide a minimum standard of customer service. Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, has yesterday written [see open letter link] to all suppliers surveyed to demand an improvement. He has also written to First Utility and Utility Warehouse, who performed next worst in the survey after npower and Scottish Power, asking them to conduct and publish a thorough independent audit of their complaint handling procedures. 

Ofgem has already taken action over suppliers’ complaint handling. In December last year npower had to pay out £26m as a result of its billing and complaint handling failings. In April this year Scottish Power had to pay out £18m for similar failures following our intervention. 

Notes to editor

  1. Quadrangle, the independent market research company, carried out the survey on Ofgem’s behalf. It surveyed 3049 domestic customers from the six largest suppliers and the medium sized suppliers (Utility Warehouse, First Utility and Ovo) as well as 468 micro-businesses who had complained at the end of last year. Link to report.
  2. Ofgem’s overview of report and open letters published yesterday
  3. Ofgem’s last complaint survey report carried out in 2014
  4. Ofgem’s guide on how consumers can complain
  5. Complaints for the six large suppliers
  6. Complaints for small and medium sized suppliers

About Ofgem

Ofgem is the independent energy regulator for Great Britain. Its priority is to make a positive difference for consumers by promoting competition in the energy markets and regulating networks.

For facts, figures and information about Ofgem’s work, see Energy facts and figuresor visit the Ofgem Data Portal

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Further information

For further press information contact:

Tim Webb: 0207 901 7179