Energy firms could owe millions in compensationFour million complaints received by the 'big six'

11 January 2012

Energy bill with light bulb on top

Four million complaints were received last year by the ‘big six’ energy companies – British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, SSE and Scottish Power - and tens of thousands were still unresolved after eight weeks, according to a new Which? investigation.

A Which? survey reveals that 40% have had a problem with a gas and electricity company in the last two years - a large number for an industry where very little should go wrong with the product itself. 

The most common problems people reported were billing and meter problems, including mistakes on bills, inaccurate meter readings and missing bills. But almost a quarter (23%) of those who had a problem with an energy supplier did nothing about it. 

You can discover how to complain about your energy provider by reading our insider guide.

Consumers missing out

If consumers don’t complain, there is no chance for things to be put right. Thousands could be missing out on compensation from the energy ombudsman – the next port of call for complaints not satisfactorily dealt with by energy suppliers – and, according to Which? research, the amount of unclaimed payments could be as much as £4m a year.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: 'These findings reveal shockingly high levels of complaints and low levels of customer satisfaction in the energy industry, at a time when domestic bills have gone through the roof. Ofgem, the regulator, should publish the truth about the full level of complaints in this essential service. Energy suppliers should be held publicly accountable, on a regular basis, for putting right the problems their customers are reporting.

'It is a sign of the level of frustration with this industry that so many people have a problem but don’t complain, even when they could be missing out on compensation. It is important that dissatisfied customers complain directly to their supplier first. But if your supplier doesn’t sort the problem out, it’s worth contacting the energy ombudsman. The vast majority of complaints it receives are upheld, with an average compensation payout of £125.'

British Gas and Npower fined

This news comes just a day after Npower and British Gas were fined by the energy watchdog Ofgem for mishandling complaints. British Gas was fined £2.5m and Npower £2m. This represents only 0.02% of British Gas's turnover in 2010. Both companies will have to pay their penalty by 22 February 2012.

Best and worst energy suppliers

These findings come alongside the results of the 2012 Which? Switch satisfaction survey, which reveals the best and worst energy companies according to their customers, in the biggest publicly available survey of its kind.

The Which? Switch 2012 satisfaction survey reveals the best and worst energy suppliers from a survey of over 8,000 people. Good Energy tops the table with the highest customer score (84%), followed by Utility Warehouse (78%) and Ecotricity (77%). Of the larger companies, SSE comes first with a customer score of 51%, and Npower comes last with only 41%.

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