CITIZENS Advice has raised concerns about the problems regularly caused to customers by their energy suppliers.
It is the official consumer watchdog for energy and its latest energy rating table shows a big gap in performance between the best and worst companies.
Included among the common difficulties being faced by customers, particularly from suppliers at the bottom end of the rankings, were:
- Billing errors caused by incorrect and late final bills, not receiving bills or inaccurate bills;
- Debt and disconnection issues, including companies adopting aggressive debt collection practices;
- Problems with pre-payment meters, including difficulties with obtaining credit refunds;
- Metering issues – faulty meters, or ones which are incorrectly registered to a particular property.
As a result Citizens Advice is urging people to shop around carefully when looking for an energy supplier and recommends that customers should not just look for the cheapest deal but compare the customer service performance of the companies.
It has pointed out that 13 domestic energy supply companies have gone out of business in less than a year. Six suppliers have failed so far this year which has affected more than 300,000 people.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “There is still a big gap between those firms who provide an excellent service to consumers, and those who are letting people down.
“Attention-grabbing low tariffs can be a good deal, but we recommend looking deeper than just the headline price when shopping around for the best energy deals. In our experience, when a company is struggling, customer service is often the first thing to suffer.”
Citizens Advice has been successful in its campaign, launched just over a year ago, to call for more time to be allowed for the introduction of smart meters with the government recently announcing that the rollout deadline has been extended to 2024.
Ms Guy commented: “Extending the smart meter rollout deadline is a common-sense move that is good news for consumers. It’s been clear for a long time that the 2020 deadline wouldn’t be met and the announcement finally recognises that reality.
“This new deadline gives suppliers’ time to fix ongoing technical problems and make sure customer service isn’t sidelined as the rollout continues. We’ve seen some energy companies use aggressive techniques to try to persuade people to have smart meters fitted as soon as possible to meet the existing timeline.
“It’s also apparent that the cost of the rollout is escalating, and the public are picking up the tab through their energy bills. People will still benefit in the long run, but today’s cost-benefit analysis shows focusing on speed hasn’t worked.
“We are pleased the government is extending the deadline to ensure the benefits for consumers are delivered.”
Citizens Advice holds two advice sessions in Lyme Regis each week. They are on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at the medical centre in Uplyme Road (DT7 3LS) and on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm at St Michael’s Business Centre (DT7 3DB), in the centre of the town. No appointment is required and the advice provided will always be free, confidential and impartial.
Anyone is also welcome to seek help at its offices in South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY every weekday between 10am and 3pm or can contact Citizens Advice by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 03442 451291, which gets you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.
For people just wanting help with Universal Credit claims they can contact Citizens Advice on a national freephone number which is 03444 111 444 and the webchat support service is available through its website.