Energy firms criticised over complaintsEnergywatch highlights delays in resolving them

31 January 2008

A blue flame from a gas hob

Although there is no 'green gas', you can still switch your energy supplier to a green tariff

Energy companies must be made to take customer complaints more seriously, says a consumer watchdog.

The call from Energywatch comes after it revealed that householders spend an average of seven months trying to sort out problems that occur with their supplier.

Next month industry regulator Ofgem is set to announce the results of a consultation on new complaint-handling standards.

Energywatch wants the standards to compel energy suppliers to treat consumer complaints seriously, speedily and effectively.

Complaint handling

An Energywatch survey of 1,124 customers found that 97% claimed their energy supplier failed to deliver what they promised.

This ranged from failing to resolve a problem to not sending an accurate bill or returning a phone call.

Less than a third of customers who tried to complain felt they had successfully navigated their way through the company's complaint process.

And only one in seven felt confident their supplier would successfully resolve a future problem.

Customer service

Energywatch Chief Executive Allan Asher said: ‘Energy companies are their own worst enemies. By not listening to consumers, not returning their calls, not updating accounts and many other examples that are signals of poor customer service, they give consumers no reason to stay.

‘Worse still, they allow simple problems to turn into seven month sagas of broken promises and poor customer service.’

He added: ‘Companies have a long way to go before consumers can be confident that their complaints are being taken seriously and will be dealt with professionally.’

The Energywatch poll took place between July and November 2007 and involved people who contacted the watchdog for help, advice or to make a formal complaint against their supplier.