Energy customer service ratings worst in five years

Customer service standards in the energy sector plummeted in the final quarter of 2021, with even the best performing suppliers scoring less than four out of five stars in Citizens Advice’s rating scheme.

The latest scores, which cover the fourth quarter of 2021, show customer service in the energy sector is the worst it has been on average since 2017.

Until last year the best rated supplier had always scored more than four stars, yet in Q4 2021 the highest rating was just 3.85. This is compared to 3.95 in the previous quarter and 4.40 in Q4 2020 – which included a national lockdown.

The charity said a rise in call waiting times was one of the main drivers behind the low scores. The average wait time is now more than five minutes at 340 seconds, compared to around four minutes (246 seconds) during the same period in 2020.

At 16 minutes Ecotricity was the worst performing for call waiting times, while So Energy was the best, taking just 44 seconds on average to answer a call.

Overall prepayment meter specialist Utilita was the quarter’s worst ranked supplier with a rating of 1.7, falling four places since the previous quarter.

In response, a spokesperson said Utilita valued the fact that the star rating is performed every three months as the sector is constantly changing.

They added: “However, it is also worth acknowledging that the star rating does not fully represent what customers need from an energy supplier today. It does not take into account the financial support we provided on almost 200,000 occasions during the reporting period, nor the millions of households that our award-winning Energy High 5 campaign has helped to cut their energy usage.

“And, in the same week Citizens Advice released its star rating, Trustpilot listed Utilita in second place out of the UK’s ten largest suppliers for customer satisfaction and brand trust – as reviewed by our customers.”

Also among the bottom five was Ovo Energy, which was the lowest-ranked large supplier, along with Good Energy, Ecotricity and Boost Power.

A Good Energy spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” with its drop in the customer service rankings.

They added: “The last quarter of 2021 was challenging for our team and our resources as the energy crisis took hold and we saw many suppliers go bust.

“We are committed to excellent service and it’s more important now than ever. Since this result our response rate to customers via phone and email has reduced and we are getting great feedback via our TrustPilot page — where our customers have rated us ‘excellent’ — on our transparent and sensitive communication during this time.”

Scottish Power had the worst number of complaints per 10,000 customers at 74.5, followed closely by Ecotricity with 71.

A spokesperson for Scottish Power said the supplier had seen a “significant increase” in the volume of customer contacts over the last year following a number of supplier failures and the unprecedented rise in the cost of buying energy and the impact this has on bills.

They added: “Our customer service teams have never been so busy and always do their best to respond to the huge numbers of customers getting in touch – often about issues we, unfortunately, have absolutely no control over.

“Where it is down to us, we work tirelessly to resolve any complaints, provide the best possible service and support our customers – and we continue to make every effort to improve on this every day.”

M&S Energy, a white label of Octopus Energy, once again took the top spot with a slightly diminished ranting of 3.85 compared to 3.95 in the previous quarter.

EDF Energy moved up a place into second and was the highest ranked large supplier, also with a score of 3.85. Meanwhile, Octopus Energy dropped to third with a score of 3.75.

Consumer duty

Citizens Advice said it is concerned that many consumers could be missing out on the support they are entitled to because they’re unable to easily contact their supplier.

As such, the charity is calling on Ofgem to introduce a ‘consumer duty’, similar to one being adopted by the Financial Conduct Authority, to ensure suppliers provide a service specifically designed to meet the needs of all customers.

This, it added, would upgrade consumer protection and should make companies directly responsible for the outcomes their customers experience, including making it easy to contact companies and get support when needed.

Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “With millions of people struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living soars, it’s more important than ever that people can turn to their energy company for support. The drop in customer service standards comes at the worst time possible.

“It’s Ofgem’s job to make sure companies are delivering a good service. But the current system isn’t working. A consumer duty focused on making sure customers get good outcomes is what’s needed. With bills expected to soar again come October, there’s no time to waste.”

In response, a spokesperson for the regulator said: “Suppliers must have customer service systems and processes that are adequate and fit for purpose. We speak to suppliers regularly and if they fall short of any of their obligations, we take robust action where appropriate.

“We are working closely with government and industry and are in regular contact with Citizens Advice and National Energy Action about the impact of rising bills on customers.”