Energy Suppliers Let Us DownPosted on: 01 October 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
A customer satisfaction survey confirms that energy suppliers' service is poor.
As the spotlight grows on energy suppliers, Which? reveals that they are the lowest performing of all industries when it comes to customer satisfaction.
In the first ever energy supplier satisfaction survey from the consumer group, five of the big six companies achieved satisfaction scores of less than 50 per cent, but it was Npower that performed worst with a score of only 32 per cent.
Npower's customers gave it a resounding thumbs-down for its billing, customer service online support, telephone support and value for money.
British Gas, who recently hiked gas prices by a record 35 per cent, also performed poorly, scoring just 40 per cent for overall satisfaction and awarded just one out of five for value for money.
Utility Warehouse was rated the best supplier in the survey, with a satisfaction score of 72 per cent. Customers awarded the company excellent marks for customer service, the quality of its telephone support and value for money.
One in five Which? members surveyed experienced problems with their supplier over the past 12 months. These included not getting bills or getting bills with errors on them, suppliers not coming to read the meter and problems contacting or resolving queries with suppliers. In addition, just one in three told Which? they'd received any advice on how to save energy.
Suppliers could also be setting direct debits too high. More than one in five gas customers and around one in six electricity customers who pay by direct debit and were in credit with their suppliers said the credit on their account was more than £100. As a result, Which? estimates direct debit customers could have overpaid by around £660 million in total.
This is particularly surprising because Which?'s survey took place at the end of the colder, darker half of the year when energy use is higher and direct debit customers, who pay a set amount each month, are more likely to have run up a debt with their supplier.
There are 11.7 million electricity customers and 10.5 million gas customers paying by direct debit. 40 per cent of electricity customers and 50 per cent of gas customers said they were in credit at the time of their last bill. Which? found the average amount in credit was £62 for electricity and £71 for gas.
Jess Ross, Editor, which.co.uk, says, "This is the first time that we've asked members about their energy suppliers and we're shocked to see the results - too many suppliers are letting customers down and charging them more and more for the privilege! These companies are providing essential services that people can't live without, but this isn't an excuse to offer poor value for money."
The average customer satisfaction score for energy suppliers was just 47 per cent, the lowest performing of all industries covered by Which? satisfaction surveys in the past 12 months. Other industry scores include 65 per cent for current accounts, 61 per cent for home insurance and 54 per cent for pay-as-you-go mobile phones.
Nine out of ten members who'd switched energy suppliers in the last 12 months said that it was easy to switch, and customers who've never switched before can save around £250 a year. Switch with Which? can help find the best value tariffs and also has the following tips to help concerned customers save money:
- A 'dual fuel' tariff, where you get gas and electricity from one supplier, can save you around £150 a year.
- If you get an online tariff you'll often get a substantial discount too.
- Give your supplier regular meter reading to avoid inaccuracies.
- Energy Efficiency grants are available for improvements to your home - contact the Energy Saving Trust to save money and reduce carbon emissions at the same time.
- If you pay by direct debit and your account shows large credit or debit, contact your supplier immediately.
- Don't forget to turn off your lights when you leave a room!
The big six suppliers are Scottish & Southern Energy, ScottishPower, Eon, EDF Energy, British Gas and Npower. Customers can find out how their supplier fared at www.which.co.uk/energycompanies.
www.switchwithwhich.co.uk - Switch with Which? is the only not-for-profit, energywatch-approved switching site.
www.energysavingtrust.org.uk - Energy efficiency and conservation advice.
Money Saving Sites - 50connect's pick of price comparison and other websites to get the best deal on energy, phone, insurance, mortgage, supermarket and other bills.
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