Energy companies, in general, are not famed for their customer-friendly service, with the Big Six generally viewed as more interested in the bottom line than in providing the public with the service they want. But npower has recently won an award no gas and electricity company wants to receive, with Citizens Advice crowning it the ‘most complained-about energy supplier of 2013′.
Research by the organisation found that there were more complaints made against npower than any other large power company last year; for every quarter of the year, npower was stubbornly at the bottom of the complaints league table, and has been in this unenviable position since the end of 2012.
Although npower admitted that its billing system was causing customers problems more than 12 months ago, Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland are concerned that there has been no notable improvement in the number of complaints the firm has received since this admission.
The latest quarterly figures, relating to complaints data from October to December 2013, revealed that:
- While SSE received 31 complaints for every 100, 000 customers, npower’s complaints volume was around ten times higher, at 326 complaints per 100, 000 customers gas boiler breakdown cover
- This means that one in every 326 npower customers had to complain to the company during the quarter
- The second-worst performing company was Scottish Power, but npower still received around three times as many complaints as Scottish Power
- The number of complaints npower received in the first months of 2013 was around half the size of the figure it received during the last months of the year
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said that npower customers are seeing things get “worse, not better”. She argued that it is unacceptable for the energy firm to have failed to sort out its customer service and billing problems, noting that some npower customers have been seeing their finances “thrown into chaos” for over a year.
While npower is failing to send some customers bills, other people are finding that their direct debits have been cancelled and are falling into debt as a result, Ms Guy stated. She confirmed that Citizens Advice has asked npower to ensure it compensates affected customers.
Citizens Advice provided the following advice to the public:
- Speak to gas and electricity firms as soon as you realise you are experiencing problems
- Set money aside if you are expecting a utility bill but do not receive one
- If suppliers are at fault, they should write off any energy you used more than 12 months ago – energy firms are only allowed to backdate bills for power used in the last year
- Ask to be compensated if you have spent a lot of time trying to resolve an energy company’s mistakes or if their errors have caused you to suffer from financial problems
- Remember that suppliers must consider a person’s ability to afford payments when arranging debt repayments
- The Citizens Advice Bureau can provide customers with advice – their consumer line is 08454 04 05 06
- The Energy Ombudsman can be reached on 0330 440 1624
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