Energy Ombudsman statement on Ofgem's complaints survey

by Ombudsman Services | Sep 27, 2018

Ofgem has today published its biennial complaints survey, which looks at how effectively larger energy suppliers are handling complaints compared to two years ago. Matthew Vickers, Chief Executive at the Energy Ombudsman, comments.

View Ofgem's survey

The energy regulator also announced that it has opened compliance cases into First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita over what it called their “poor handling of customer complaints.”

Ofgem is also expanding recent “compliance engagement” on complaints handling performance with Scottish Power and requiring all other domestic suppliers featured in the survey – British Gas, Npower, Utility Warehouse, SSE, EDF Energy, E.ON and Co-operative Energy – to provide “improvement plans” on how they will deal with complaints.

Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, described the survey results as “a mixed bag”.

He said: “As the report makes clear, there is still room for improvement in the way energy suppliers handle complaints.

“Nevertheless, the bigger picture is that the industry appears to be making progress, which is good to see.

“We are working with suppliers to help them resolve complaints more quickly, so that fewer complaints reach us. Ultimately we want to use our data and insights to help prevent complaints happening in the first place.

“This report focused on large and medium-sized suppliers, but in future we think customers of smaller suppliers should be surveyed.

“More than 40% of complaints that come to us are about smaller suppliers, so including customers of these companies would give a more complete picture of the energy sector’s performance on complaint handling.

He added: “One area of concern for us is that complainants are still given what the report calls “very little information” about third-party solutions and alternative redress routes such as the Energy Ombudsman.

“Only 15% of consumers with an unresolved complaint were sent a letter by their supplier referring them to us – the same proportion as two years ago.

“We would like this figure to be higher, because we feel it’s important that consumers are made aware of their options if and when a complaint can’t be resolved.

“The lack of progress on signposting to the Energy Ombudsman detracts from the encouraging improvements highlighted elsewhere in the report.”