Challenger supplier Solarplicity has denied rumours it is about to enter the supplier of last resort (SoLR) process but has confirmed it has let 27 of its meter installers go.

The energy retailer, which was banned by Ofgem from taking on any new customers at the end of February, said the figure was “around 50 per cent” of its installers partly due to the regulator’s provisional order.

Ofgem said it issued the provisional order as it was concerned about the energy supplier’s “poor” switching process and customer service.

Speaking to Utility Week chief executive of Solarplicity David Elbourne, said: “We have let a number of meter installers go (around 50 per cent) for two reasons:

  • The end of the SMETS1 install date, 15 March 2019, means we cannot install SMETS1 going forward.
  • The PO we have on us from Ofgem means we can’t take on new customers and therefore have less customers for whom we can install smart meters.

“We expect to re-employ as and when we take on new customers.”

Ofgem’s provisional order means Solarplicity is banned from taking on new customers for up to three months until it resolves customer service issues.

The regulator has warned that if the company fails to improve it could result in the revocation of its supplier licence.

The order to Solarplicity, also prevents the supplier from increasing direct debits for “vulnerable customers”.

At the time Ofgem issued the provisional order, Solarplicity said the regulator’s decision had been based on “old historical data” and disregarded “vast improvements” the supplier had made to its customer service.

Solarplicity claimed it had made “substantial additional investment” into its staff and IT systems.

Earlier this year Ofgem banned Economy Energy from taking on new customers due to poor customer service. The supplier later ceased trading. Another challenger supplier, Iresa, was also banned from taking on new customers last year and subsequently exited the market.

The accounts for Solarplicity are listed as “overdue” on the Companies House website. This has prompted concerns the supplier is in difficulty.

Overdue accounts or extending an accounting period, as seen with a recently failed energy supplier, may be a sign that the company is in trouble according to industry sources.

A source previously told Utility Week there was a “concerning trend” of suppliers who are late filing their accounts, or who reduce their accounting year end by one day to buy an extra three months to file their accounts.

The source added: “In our experience this can be linked to disagreements with auditors over the state of the accounts – or the accounts not being in a fit state to file.”

Solarplicity scored 2.15 stars out of five in Citizens Advice’s latest customer service rating table and ranked bottom in the annual Which? satisfaction survey published in January.

The Energy Ombudsman previously confirmed the supplier was subject to 1,035 investigations into complaints in 2018.