Customer service standards of some small energy suppliers “raises serious questions” and is further evidence why Ofgem needs to “get tougher on licensing”, warns Citizens Advice.

The charity’s latest energy star rating table ranks Economy Energy bottom for the third consecutive quarter. It received a score of 1.2 stars out of five for its customer service for the period October to December 2017.

A spokesperson at Economy Energy, said: “We are disappointed with our position considering our commitment to providing an excellent experience for our growing customer base across the country.

“The figures reflect a period from October 2017 when we were relocating our outsourced offshore operations to a new £4 million contact centre in Coventry.”

Other companies near the foot of the table include Iresa Energy, Avro Energy, Spark Energy and Extra Energy.

Iresa, which scored 1.3 out of five, has been banned by Ofgem for taking on new customers for three months as its customer service failings risk causing “immediate harm” to customers.

Citizens Advice referred the company to the regulator in November last year for its poor customer service. Iresa is currently subject to a separate longer-term investigation by Ofgem.

At the other end of the scale, So Energy came top of the class with a score of 4.7 stars, followed by Bulb Energy and Octopus Energy.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The performance of some smaller energy suppliers raises serious questions for the companies themselves, and shows why Ofgem needs to get tougher on licensing.

“The performance of those at the top of the table shows that small suppliers can deliver great customer service. All customers deserve accurate bills, a supplier that’s easy to contact and that will resolve problems quickly and effectively when things do go wrong.”

The charity said it is too easy for firms to set up as a new supplier, with some serving customers before they have systems in place to deliver a good service.

Guy added: “Ofgem also has an important duty in protecting customers from companies which don’t provide appropriate levels of customer service. The regulator must now take action and tighten the rules for new companies becoming suppliers. Ultimately it’s customers who suffer when firms aren’t up to scratch”.

An Ofgem spokesperson, said: “It’s crucial that all suppliers provide customers with good service, including acting quickly and effectively to sort things out wherever problems occur. Where suppliers fail their customers on service, Ofgem will step in and take strong action.

“In Ofgem’s forward work plan we’ve said we’ll review our approach to awarding supply licenses in the next year, to ensure the right protections are in place against poor customer service and financial instability.”

Citizens Advice said it developed the star rating system to help people find the right energy supplier for their needs. Suppliers are awarded a score out of five stars based on a combination of five factors, including how complaints are dealt with, and how highly customers rate the customer service.

Simon Oscroft, director at So Energy, said: “We’re continually working hard to improve the service we provide and, even though we’ve come first, we know we can do better.”

British Gas ranked the highest of the big six suppliers in fourth place with a score of 4.05. A spokesperson for the company, said: “We’re committed to delivering excellent customer service and having the right systems in place to help our customers when they need us.”

The charity rated 28 energy suppliers, which cover 99 per cent of the energy market by customer numbers.

 

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