The total number of complaints by UK domestic energy consumers fell by 32 per cent last year – according to data published jointly today by OFGEM and the Energy Ombudsman.
The total number of complaints dropped from around five million in 2015 to 3½ million in 2016 – the lowest level since 2013.
However, despite notoriously poor performances by Npower and EDF, Scottish Power ended the period atop the Big Six ‘league of shame’ with the most complaints per 100,000 customers, while the ‘best’ performer ( with the lowest number of complaints) was Perth-based SSE.
The UK’s worst-performing energy provider (with by far the greatest number of complaints) in the ‘small provider’ category was Borders-based Spark Energy.
On average, most large and medium suppliers solved 90% of complaints within two months – the deadline after which complaints may be referred by individuals to the Energy Ombudsman.
Data released by the Ombudsman also reveals that between January to December 2016, it required suppliers to hand back £3.3 million through financial awards it made through case remedies.
At the same time the Energy Ombudsman is taking action to drive up standards amongst suppliers. In May 2015 the Energy Ombudsman introduced new requirements that mean failure to implement remedies within 28 days are met by tougher penalties.
This has led to a reduction in the time that consumers are waiting for their awards to be implemented.
Dermot Nolan, OFGEM Chief Executive, commented: “We are seeing clear signs that suppliers are competing harder on customer service.
“This is good, as it puts pressure on poor-performing companies to up their game or lose market share.
“We want to see all suppliers to take steps to bring down complaints further. We take strict action where we see companies failing and have imposed over £50 million penalties for companies for poor customer service.”
Lewis Smith, Chief Ombudsman, said: “The steady decrease in the volume of complaints over the last year is encouraging for the energy industry as it indicates that providers are improving their service and complaints handling.
“At the same time consumers are rightly more demanding of their energy suppliers than ever before, taking service as well as cost into account.
“It’s clear that energy companies’ steps to improve their customer service are starting to pay off, but there is still more that could be done to ensure the service customers receive matches their expectations.”
Suppliers are required to publish domestic complaints data on their websites on a quarterly basis. They also publish their ‘top 5’ reasons for complaints and the measures they are taking to improve how they handle customer complaints.
The vast majority of all complaints – around 66% – are caused by either shoddy customer service or disputes over energy bills.