The investigation was prompted following an increase of over 30% in the levels of complaints recorded by EDF Energy during the mass migration stages of introducing a new IT system in 2011.
Ofgem found that between May 2011 and January 2012, EDF Energy did not have appropriate procedures in place to properly receive, record and process all customers’ complaints in accordance with complaints handling rules.
EDF Energy encountered a number of unexpected technical problems that resulted in many customers experiencing unacceptably high call waiting times with many deciding to hang up before getting through to a customer services operator.
When customers did get through, there was evidence of complaints where the supplier had failed to record all the required details for the complaints received. This included the date of receipt, a summary of the complaint and action taken, which could have led to difficulties in tracking progress of consumer complaints.
At times when the new systems were down, complaints were not logged until sometime after they were actually received.
EDF Energy staff took action quickly to rectify the problems and to mitigate the effects on consumers. The company has acknowledged that their customers were caused significant disruption and have publicly apologised for this. The agreed payment reflects these factors as well as the seriousness of the issues.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner with responsibility for enforcement, said: “EDF Energy failed to have sufficiently robust processes in place when they introduced a new IT system and this led to the unacceptable handling of complaints. Their commitment to putting things right and paying £3m to the Citizens Advice ‘Energy Best Deal Extra’ scheme and the Plymouth Citizen Advice Bureau’s Debt Helpline to benefit vulnerable customers is a step in the right direction to rebuilding consumer trust.
“It’s now vital for EDF Energy and the industry as a whole to truly put customers first and put adequate resources in place to deal with complaints. Following our reforms, it has never been easier for consumers to switch supplier and therefore those unhappy with the service they receive are able to vote with their feet.”