Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator

The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

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The Independent Online

One of the Big Six energy giants has been forced to accept a 12 day sales ban after failing to meet customer services targets imposed by the regulator.

Scottish Power has been under investigation by Ofgem since November, when the energy Watchdog reported that the firm was hitting customers with “unacceptably long call waiting times.”

It gave the energy giant just three months to clear its problems, demanding improvements in three key areas: call waiting times, late bills and, crucially, clearing a backlog of Ombudsman complaints by November.

Despite telling the regulator it had cleared the backlog in time, Ofgem subsequently uncovered new evidence that showed the company had not met its November target.

As a result Scottish Power will not be allowed to flog – or “proactively sell” in the regulator’s parlance -its energy deals for 12 days from today.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement said: “We remain very concerned about how customers are being treated.”

However Scottish Power’s problems – which it blamed on its IT systems - have resulted in 2,000 customers getting free energy where the company has been unable to implement Ombudsman recommendations. Further, it has promised to continue handing out free energy until it can resolve the issues to the Ombudsman’s satisfaction.

However Ofgem didn’t rule out further restrictions on the firm. “As well as our ongoing investigation, we require Scottish Power to undertake an independent audit of its progress on improving customer service,” said Ms Harrison. “We will keep the need for any further action under review.”

“It's right that Ofgem is hitting suppliers where it hurts,” said Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director. ”ScottishPower should be properly punished for failing to meet its customer service targets.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, added: “Customers of Scottish Power are still waiting for them to clean up their act. The poor service has turned initial errors into ongoing misery. The sales ban must now spur Scottish Power into action to ensure a corner is turned.”

Ofgem also has an ongoing investigation with Npower over its billing problems since June 2014.

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