Energy suppliers’ standards slipping as prices soar

citizens adviceENERGY suppliers’ customer service standards are plummeting as bills soar. This is according to the latest Citizens Advice energy supplier’s ‘star rating’ survey which covers customer service between October-December 2021.

Citizens Advice is concerned this is part of a trend of declining standards just as people need support from their energy companies to cope with record bills and a cost-of-living crisis Citizens Advice star rating exercise shows energy suppliers’ customer service is the worst it’s been on average since 2017.

Suppliers at the top of the table are M&S Energy, EDF Energy, Octopus Energy, Affect Energy and So Energy. The worst performing suppliers are Utilita, Boost Power, Ecotricity, Good Energy and Ovo.

Call waiting times are on the rise

One of the main drivers of the low scores is the rise in call waiting times. The average call wait time is now more than five minutes. Customers with the poorest suppliers now face wait times of around 15 minutes.

People could miss out on vital support

If people are struggling to pay their energy bills, suppliers are responsible for providing support, such as affordable payment plans. But Citizens Advice is concerned that many could be missing out on help they’re entitled to because they’re unable to contact their supplier easily.

Local case study Mrs S, aged 77, is a widow, lives in a one-bedroom rented flat in Bridport and relies on her pension and pension credit. She doesn’t use the internet and struggles to communicate with her energy provider.

Last year the housing officer at her housing association (who has since left) helped Mrs S to get onto a payment plan with her supplier because they were overcharging her. On this plan she was paying £60 per month by direct debit.

When the new price cap was announced Mrs S received a flurry of letters from her supplier saying they were putting her direct debit up to £147 per month. She tried to reach her supplier several times but was unable to get through and the money was taken out of her account in April.

Mrs S turned her heating and appliances off in a bid to save money but was really struggling and her neighbours, who were shocked at her exceptional bill increase of 145 per cent, encouraged her to contact Citizens Advice.

Citizens Advice Bridport & District were able to contact the supplier and arranged for a new payment plan of £75 per month to be put in place.

Citizens Advice nationally is calling for Ofgem to introduce a ‘consumer duty’ to ensure suppliers provide a service specifically designed to meet the needs of all customers.

A similar approach is being adopted by the Financial Conduct Authority to upgrade consumer protection. This includes  making it easy to contact companies and get support when needed.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “With millions of people struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living soars, it’s more important than ever that people can turn to their energy company for support.

“The drop in customer service standards comes at the worst time possible.

“It’s Ofgem’s job to make sure companies are delivering a good service. A ‘consumer duty’ focused on making sure customers get good outcomes is what’s needed.

“With bills expected to soar again come October, there’s no time to waste.”

For help with problems relating to cost of living rises or other issues, Citizens Advice in Lyme Regis has drop-in advice sessions on Wednesdays 10am to 3pm at the town council offices in Church Street, DT7 3BS.

Alternatively telephone Freephone 0800-144-8848 or send an email using the contact form at www.bridportca.org.uk

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