EDF Energy has launched the cheapest fixed-price tariff of any of the big suppliers for prepay customers, though consumers remain unimpressed with energy companies, according to the latest complaints data.
There are just four deals on offer to prepay customers - households that have previously fallen into debt with their energy provider and so have to pay for their energy upfront – but the EDF Blue+Fixed Prepay October 2016 tariff will cost them the same as customers on standard deals who pay by cash or cheque.
The annual dual fuel bill for customers signing up to the Blue+Fixed tariff will be £1,237 a year, the same price as that for customers on the EDF Energy Standard Variable tariff paying by cash or cheque.
While EDF's variable tariff is also the cheapest of any of the major suppliers, it appears the Big Six supplier has more to do if it is to keep its customers happy. It was the third worst for complaints between January and March.
The company received 84.5 complaints for every 100,000 customers during the period, with only Scottish Power and npower doing worse, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Scottish Power notched up 197.7 complaints per 100,000 customers and npower generated a whopping 592.4.
Complaints about the two companies rose dramatically from 100.5 and 306.8 per 100,000 customers respectively in the three months between October and December.
Citizens Advice explained that the jump in complaints they received were in response to new billing systems they both introduced.
Npower customers have been particularly badly affected by payment problems such as receiving bills very late that customers are forced to pay very quickly.
Energy regulator Ofgem has given the company until the end of August to resolve its "major billing issues" or face a ban from making telesales calls to potential customers.
Providers should do more
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "While we recognise npower is receiving more complaints because it is starting to get over some of the earlier issues, it needs to do more to stop consumers' problems escalating. Offering repayment plans and discussing ways they can help consumers from the off will nip issues in the bud and remove the need to complain.
She added: "Scottish Power has an opportunity to learn from other suppliers' new billing system failures and address these problems now so more consumers won't have cause for complaint."
Complaints about all of the Big Six rose between the three months to December and the three months to March, with the average number received reaching 151 per 100,000 customers by the end of the first quarter of 2014.
"A rise in complaints about all suppliers is concerning," said Guy. "Suppliers won't win the trust of customers back unless they show they understand what consumers need, recognise the financial pressures many people are under and are able to sort out problems quickly. This is something that all suppliers can act on now."
For customers experiencing payment difficulties with their energy supplier, Citizens Advice has the following advice:
- Complain to your energy supplier as soon as you experience a problem.
- If you have not received a bill but are expecting one, try to put money aside to you are able to pay when you do eventually get the bill.
- Energy companies are only allowed to back bill for energy you used in the last 12 months, anything older than that should be written-off where the supplier is at fault.
- Ask for some sort of compensation for the time you spent on trying to sort out problems and the financial impact of late billing for example reduce the balance of the bill and cover the cost of phone calls.
- Npower customers who have received a late bill can contact the supplier on 0800 9759 065.
- Scottish Power has increased the opening hours of its call centre to 10pm to help deal with customer queries.
- Suppliers must take into account ability to pay when setting debt repayment levels.
- You can get advice from the Citizens Advice energy consumer line on 03454 04 05 06.
- If you are struggling to resolve your complaint you can raise it with the energy ombudsman on 0330 440 1624.