British Gas fined £2.5m over customer complaintsOfgem raps British Gas for complaints handling

27 July 2011

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Ofgem has proposed a £2.5 million fine for British Gas over poor complaints handling

Ofgem has proposed that British Gas be fined £2.5 million over the way it handles customer complaints.

An investigation found that the company wasn't following regulations that set out how energy companies should deal with complaints from customers. 

Ofgem said British Gas 'failed to re-open complaints when the customer had indicated that the complaint was not resolved'. 

It was also critical that British Gas didn't provide dissatisfied customers with details of the Energy Ombudsman (EO) - the next possible means of redress where an energy company has not resolved an issue.

Energy company complaints

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 'It's time energy companies started taking customer complaints seriously, and Ofgem is absolutely right to hand down substantial punishments to those that don't follow basic procedures. 

Suppliers should always tell customers that they can take an unresolved complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. It's well worth people pursuing this as the majority of complaints assessed by the Ombudsman are upheld, and seven in ten include financial compensation.'

British Gas also failed to set up a proper complaints procedure for its small business customers, Ofgem added - but has since taken action to improve its complaint handling systems.

How to complain

Gas and electricity companies have to comply with stringent complaint-handling standards drawn up by Ofgem. If you've got a complaint, you should first put it in writing to your energy provider. 

Consumers need to give the company a reasonable time (eight weeks for the 'big six' energy companies including British Gas, and 12 weeks for smaller firms) to sort out the dispute, before they can escalate it to the redress service offered by the EO.

Energy complaints data

Richard Lloyd says: 'Which? also wants the regulator to provide much clearer information about complaints in the energy industry so that everyone can see how customers are being treated.'

By publishing energy complaints data, energy suppliers will have an incentive to improve customer service. At the moment, the financial services industry is obliged to publish their complaints data regularly so that customers can see how their bank measures up.

Which? believes that energy companies should do the same. We'd like to see the suppliers:

  • publish complaints handling reports in a standardised format every six months
  • make it easy to access complaints data via a single click from the homepage of their website.

Ofgem is currently also investigating Npower and EDF Energy over the way each deals with customer complaints, potential energy misselling by Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy, EDF Energy and Npower as well as potentially misleading marketing material from Scottish Power.

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