Challenger energy brands dominate the bottom of Citizens Advice’s star ratings table and accurate billing remains the biggest problem for consumers.
The quarterly table, released today (12 December), showed the top and bottom of the table remains the same as Q2, with challengers Breeze and Nabuh occupying those slots respectively.
Billing errors were the most common complaints for three of the bottom five suppliers – Ecotricity, Outfox the Market and Green Star.
As a result Citizens Advice’s chief executive Gillian Guy has called on the energy regulator to make basic customer service such as accurate billing a top priority.
Research from the consumer champion found that 60 per cent of people said accurate billing was the most important customer service issue, with the way complaints were handled (17 per cent) and phone waiting times (12 per cent) also listed as important issues.
EDF, which sat in third place overall, was the highest ranked big six supplier with 4.25 out of 5 while Scottish Power remained the worst-ranked of the six, with 3.25.
Guy said: “Every energy supply company should be able to provide its customers with an accurate bill. It’s the very least people should expect.
“The inability of some suppliers to get this right causes a great deal of unnecessary stress for customers.
“Some of the difficulties experienced by people who come to us for help are a legacy of an under-regulated market. Too many under-prepared companies were allowed to set up as energy suppliers.
“Ofgem has recently proposed new regulations for new and existing suppliers. These should be put into effect as soon as possible.
“We’d like to see Ofgem making basic customer service such as accurate billing a top priority, and step in sooner when energy companies don’t meet decent standards of customer service.”
In response to the report, an Ofgem spokesperson said: “Suppliers should make no mistake – as we head into 2020 customer service remains a top priority and we will continue to intervene where we see problems, including through our enforcement powers where needed.
“Suppliers have a variety of obligations to issue accurate and timely information to customers, and in 2018 we banned suppliers from backbilling customers for energy used more than 12 months ago.
“We have also clamped down on poor supplier behaviour by introducing even tougher rules for suppliers entering the market, as well as existing suppliers.”
Meanwhile Jodi Hamilton, relationships director at the Energy Ombudsman, said the organisation also saw billing as the number one source of complaints.
She said: “Billing is the number-one source of complaints that we deal with, accounting for 60 per cent of the cases that we’ve handled across the energy sector so far this year.
“The three most common billing issues we see are disputed energy usage, disputed account balances and delays.
“At a time when consumers are savvier and more price-sensitive than ever, accurate and timely billing is a vital foundation for any energy supplier looking to build and maintain trust with its customers.
“We are keen to work pro-actively with energy suppliers of all sizes to help them resolve more billing disputes in-house and reduce the number of complaints that come to us.
“Quick and effective resolution of complaints benefits consumers and helps to build trust in suppliers and the energy sector as a whole.”
In response to its rating, a spokesperson for Nabuh said the score does not reflect its current performance in a “fair and transparent manner”.
Instead, the spokesperson said, the ratings released are inclusive of the 24,000 additional customers recently acquired from Avid Energy, which exited the market earlier this year.
They added: “Whilst we are aware that the acquired Avid customer base has had a distinct impact on our customer service performance during this quarter, it is worthwhile highlighting that our general performance in other areas such as switching, billing accuracy and ensuring our customers receive our statements on time, were not featured issues.
“We are pleased to say that we are continuously improving and have been working alongside citizens advice and Ofgem to ensure that they are aware of any actions that we have, and continue to put in place.
“In order to continue to make further improvements, we are investing a significant amount into new technology to drive performance in all key areas which we feel will facilitate our customers.”
More research released today by Comparethemarket.com found that 20 per cent of energy customers have been put off switching to a new supplier as a result of supplier failures since the start of 2018.
As a result of the 14 supplier failures since January 2018, one in eight (13 per cent) customers said will now only switch to larger and better-known providers, while 7 per cent have elected not to move to a smaller energy supplier.
|Supplier||Rating for July to September 2019|
|E (Gas and Electricity)||3.81|
|Green Network Energy||3.6|
|People’s Energy Company||3.6|
|Robin Hood Energy||2.9|
|Outfox The Market||2.35|
|Green Star Energy||2.2|