Energy companies: soaring complaints mean they should be forced to play fair


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The Independent Online

Now that the warmer weather is here - or has at least popped out for a bit - it feels a bit odd to be complaining about energy suppliers.

But just because you and I may feel less concerned about heating costs for the next few months, doesn't mean that your energy company isn't still cocking things up.

In fact the Big Six firms are getting worse, according to shock new customer complaint figures published today by consumer group Which?.

The shaming numbers show that complaints to the Big Six companies - British Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE - have reached the highest number in a single quarter since records began, climbing 15 per cent on the same time last year.

The firms received 1.7m complaints in the first quarter alone, with Npower the worst culprit. The company received 83 complaints for every 1,000 customers in the first quarter of this year - the highest number among the six companies and up from 49 complaints per 1,000 at the same time last year.

Npower admitted: “We have seen issues with our billing system”, but added: “in the past three weeks we have reduced our total complaints by 32 per cent as well as resolving 88 per cent of complaints within 24 hours.”

Energy UK - the industry's mouthpiece, responded to the figures by saying: “In an industry which serves 27m households, sometimes things can go wrong.”

That's true, things can go wrong. But after years of letting us all down, the gas and electricity companies have had plenty of time - and chances - to start getting things right. These latest figures show they are far from doing so.

In March the regulator Ofgem called for a full Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the energy industry on the back of fears that companies may be making excess profits and ripping off loyal customers.

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said: “These figures are a damning indictment of a broken energy market.” She's absolutely right. Firms should be forced to play fair with customers.;