Around 20% of Brits complain to their gas and electricity supplier every year, Citizens Advice has said, as it revealed that the number of energy-related complaints handled by local bureaus has seen an annual rise of 27%.
Billing represents the biggest cause of complaint – Citizens Advice estimated that energy companies spend £125 million every year handling billing issues – noting that it helped people with 100,000 energy complaints last year, despite the fact that its The Lost Decade report says an energy supplier’s “basic function” is to manage accounts properly.
There is “widespread distrust” among consumers, and poor practices within the sector are “prevalent”, the organisation argued.
Energy Providers Failing to Provide Bills
This means that, although energy companies now frequently offer a wide range of additional services, such as boiler services and home emergency cover, they are still failing in accurately providing bills to all of their customers.
Although Citizens Advice said that many billing issues could be resolved during the upcoming smart meter roll-out in 2020, this could be undermined if energy suppliers fail to improve their processes, the report claimed.
The report, which marked the tenth year since a super-complaint was made against the energy sector, recommended that:
- Ofgem should review why regulatory requirements and competition have not reduced billing problems, and, depending on the outcome of this investigation, should introduce incentives and penalties to encourage improvements to billing performance;
- Ofgem should work alongside consumers to identify the information needed in bills in order to deal with the problem of complicated bills; and
- Ofgem should limit backbilling for people on smart meters for up to three months to improve protections for consumers.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said that energy consumers have been “plagued” by billing problems for “many years”, and said that, in order for the wider market to work, people should be billed correctly and on-time.
She said it is “astonishing and wholly unacceptable” that energy companies have been failing in this regard for so long.
Nonetheless, Ms Guy predicted that the smart-meter roll-out could improve the situation, and said the responsibility is now on Ofgem to improve customer protections and suppliers to “get it right”.
People in Scotland Struggling to Pay Energy Bills
Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Margaret Lynch pointed out that two-fifths of households in Scotland are currently struggling to pay for their energy – a figure she called “scandalous”.
Billing accuracy is “more important than ever”, Ms Lynch said, stating that “far too many” energy companies are still failing their customers.
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