Call for action

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Opinion

In the last week, an open letter to energy suppliers from Ofgem chief Dermot Nolan demanded action on poor consumer complaints handling.

Nolan wrote to to the CEOs of not only the 'big six', but also smaller independent suppliers after research, commissioned by Ofgem, highlighted over half of those who had complained (57% of domestic and 52% of small business consumers) were not satisfied with the way their complaint had been handled by their energy supplier.

Ofgem highlighted the key areas customers were most concerned about and where suppliers must do most to improve. These included:

• improving the speed of resolving a complaint

• communicating better with consumers during the complaint process   

• being more proactive in resolving complaints

Nolan said: “These satisfaction scores are frankly awful. Almost all energy suppliers need to improve their complaints handling as a matter of urgency. There are real business benefits to good complaints handling schemes, and it shouldn’t need a regulator to tell companies about the importance of this.

“Suppliers must now tell their customers what steps they will be taking to put things right. We are already formally investigating npower about complaints handling and other customer service issues, and this should send a strong signal to all suppliers that, where necessary, we will take action.”

Many customers are now responding to suppliers’ poor service by switching supplier. Nearly one in two customers had either already switched or planned to do so as a result of their complaints experience.

With what Ofgem calls an "industry wide" failure, and almost 60% of domestic customers dissatisfied with the way problems are dealt with, one wonders how many suppliers a customer needs to go through to find one worth sticking with?