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Energy suppliers reveal annual complaint levels

British Gas says it will become more transparent

Energy bill with light bulb on top

Want to know how many complaints your energy supplier received last year? New figures reveal certain complaint levels for each energy supplier, but Which? wants Ofgem to step in and uncover the full picture.

Energy suppliers have published their annual customer complaints handling reports, which they are required to do by 31 October each year. The reports make public the number of complaints that the energy companies received over the past 12 months (for every 1,000 customers) that were still unresolved by the end of the next working day.

However, these reports don’t give the full picture of complaints in the UK as they do not provide information on how many complaints suppliers receive in total, what the complaints are about, and how well those who complain feel their complaints are handled.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘We want the regulator Ofgem to require energy companies to publish clear, comparable information about all the complaints they get so that we can see the true picture of consumer satisfaction. Suppliers should be held publicly accountable, on a regular basis, for putting right the problems their customers are reporting.’

Energy complaint levels 

Ecotricity had the fewest unresolved complaints over the past year, making it top of the table for the third year running. It claims to have had just one complaint for every 1,000 customers over the previous 12 months, the same as it reported this time last year. 

The renewable energy provider compares particularly favourably to British Gas, which had 20 complaints for every 1,000 customers over the past year – significantly more than the still sizeable 12 for every 1,000 that it registered last October.

Of the other ‘big six’ energy providers, Eon reported 8 unresolved complaints for every 1,000 customers, while SSE declared 12, EDF 15, and nPower and Scottish Power 16. In January 2012, Which? reported that four million complaints were received in the previous year by these six energy providers.

British Gas complaints

British Gas has said that it is trying to become more transparent regarding complaints, by publishing a quarterly – as opposed to annual – report. This will detail the number of complaints received per 100,000 domestic energy customers, as well as the percentage of complaints resolved on the same or the next working day, and the percentage of complaints resolved within eight weeks.

The energy giant says it believes it is more important to investigate complaints thoroughly than it is to resolve them quickly, and therefore the annual reports that focus on how many complaints are still unresolved on the next working day after they’re logged are potentially misleading. It is also calling for other energy suppliers to provide quarterly complaint-handling reports. Eon was in fact the first UK energy company to start publishing quarterly reports, ahead of British Gas.

Which? wants Ofgem to step in 

Which? would like to see even more transparency. Our 2012 Which? Switch survey, found that the amount of information currently available to energy consumers about complaints is tiny. This is alarming, given the essential nature of the service. We would like the energy regulator, Ofgem, to be able to force companies to reveal the full level of complaints within the industry.

The Which? survey (of more than 8,000 people) revealed that around 40% of UK energy consumers had had a problem with a gas or electricity company in the previous two years, with the most common problems reported being around billing and meter problems. Choosing an energy supplier would be easier if consumers had better information on how many complaints suppliers receive, what the complaints are about, and how well they are handled. Energy firms are not currently required to publish this information.

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