Energy firm ScottishPower has been slapped with a sales ban by regulator Ofgem after it failed to clear a backlog of outstanding Ombudsman decisions.
Last November the supplier, one of the UK's Big Six energy companies, was warned it faced being prevented from making "proactive" sales calls unless it resolved a number of customer service issues, including acting on all of the complaints it had received from the Energy Ombudsman.
The firm was given three months to do so but it has failed to clear the backlog in time. The ban, which comes into force today, will last for the next 12 days. The other voluntary targets set in November - improve the speed with which customer calls are answered and reduce the amount of late bills sent out - were both met.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem's senior partner in charge of enforcement said: "A sales ban illustrates the difficulties ScottishPower is having in delivering the levels of service customers deserve.
"While Ofgem's targets have driven significant improvements in ScottishPower's performance, we remain very concerned about how customers are being treated.
"As well as our ongoing investigation, we require ScottishPower to undertake an independent audit of its progress on improving customer service. We will keep the need for any further action under review."
Committed to improvement
In response to the ban, ScottishPower said it would have reached the target if it didn't subsequently find 30 ombudsman cases that it had closed incorrectly. These cases have all since been rectified, while it was now answering customer calls in under two minutes on average, and overdue bills were now less than 30,000.
"ScottishPower is committed to delivering the best service possible and treating our customers fairly," CEO Neil Clitheroe said.
"To further improve our customer service, we invested £200 million on a new customer management system. All of our customer accounts have now been transferred on to the new system and we are starting to see some of the benefits of that system being delivered, such as extending our call centre opening hours to the longest in the industry and an "industry-first" online direct debit management service.
"The process of moving to our new system has been challenging and has resulted in service problems for some of our customers. We are determined to put this right. We continue to correct problems, pay appropriate compensation and ensure no customer is left financially disadvantaged."