Small supplier Outfox the Market has ranked bottom of Citizens Advice’s latest star ratings table, with the five lowest places going to challenger brands.
The results show more smaller suppliers are failing to meet “decent standards of customer service”, according to the consumer charity.
At the start of 2019 Ofgem revealed it was in “active discussion” with Outfox the Market regarding customer service issues with parent company Foxglove and associated labels.
The latest Citizens Advice results, published today (15 March) cover the period October to December last year and assess 35 suppliers overall.
The five suppliers rated at the bottom of the table – iSupply, Pure Planet, PFP, Eversmart and Outfox the Market – all achieved an overall score of less than two out of five stars.
In the previous three-month period, only one supplier scored less than two stars out of five – One Select, which ceased trading in December.
So Energy once again topped the table for the fifth consecutive quarter while big six supplier SSE was the highest rated large supplier, coming in second place.
Following publication of the results Steven Day, co-founder of purely app-based company Pure Planet, which ranked in the bottom five, says his company has been unfairly treated.
Pure Planet was given a zero rating on two out of five scores because, the supplier claims, it is an app and does not have an inbound telephone service.
Day said: “Being an app-based supplier is inherently different from traditional energy services providers.
“But this does not mean that an app cannot and does not offer high standards of customer service. It can and does.
“Instead of having a phone number open for only part of the day, like many other suppliers, Pure Planet has a digital service available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Meanwhile Tony Keeling, chief operating officer at SSE Energy Services, said: “Declining service levels have become a tell-tale sign of an energy company not investing enough in customer service and can be an early indicator that a firm could be in difficulty.
“Multiple suppliers collapsed last year following months of poor customer service costing customers across the market millions of pounds.
“That’s why we’re backing strong reform to ensure customers right across the market are protected.”
Poor levels of customer service from so many suppliers has prompted further calls for tighter regulation.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We have seen too many companies who were completely unprepared to offer acceptable levels of service.
“A number of these have gone out of business in recent months, leaving customers worried, anxious and in some cases temporarily out of pocket.
“The regulator needs to take urgent action by tightening rules around supplier licences, monitoring existing firms more closely and enforcing standards where these aren’t met.”
Chris Thewlis, Npower’s customer services director for home and business, said:“After maintaining our star rating over the second half of last year, it’s encouraging to see an improvement in our switching score and we’ve sustained above average position in complaints.
“Supplier data also shows that we’ve maintained mid position in complaints per 100,000 customers out of all the big six energy suppliers in 2018, and our own internal customer satisfaction scores show improvements towards the end of last year.
“While there’s still more for us to do to improve our overall position in the Citizen’s Advice survey, we’re encouraged to see improvements year on year in various external benchmarks such as the recent Uswitch and Which? surveys.”
Energy UK’s chief executive Lawrence Slade, said: “In an increasingly competitive market, good customer service is just as important as price for many customers choosing their energy supplier.
“With 11 suppliers having exited the market since the start of last year – many of whom struggled with their customer service as well as financially – we agree that Ofgem needs to toughen the requirements for new and existing suppliers.”
Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, added: “We’re concerned that some small energy suppliers are failing to handle complaints properly or make their customers aware of their right to escalate a complaint to us.
“This needs to change if consumers are to have trust and confidence in the energy sector as a whole.
“Our complaints data helps to inform the Citizens Advice star ratings, so it’s no surprise that our organisations are seeing some of the same issues and problems.
“As an ombudsman we’re here to help consumers, but part of our role is also to help businesses put things right quickly and effectively.
“That’s why we are keen to work with all suppliers in an effort to help improve complaint handling and customer service more generally across the sector.”
|Supplier||Star rating October to December 2018|
|Green Network Energy||3.55|
|E (Gas and Electricity)||3.45|
|Robin Hood Energy||2.45|
|Green Star Energy||2.3|
|Outfox The Market||1.3|