Far too many energy companies are failing to deliver good customer service, according to Citizens Advice.
In the charity’s latest customer service league table, a quarter of the energy companies rated failed to achieve half marks.
Big Six provider SSE was the highest rated energy company with 4.6 out of five stars.
It was followed by Affect, Breeze, So Energy and Igloo Energy.
Challenger Nabuh energy came last, with 1.65 stars out of five. Other providers in the bottom five include Eversmart, Utilita, TOTO and OutFox the Market.
The energy star rating compiles data from all companies with more than 25,000 customers. The results for the period January to March 2019 include 39 suppliers with 99% market coverage.
It assesses a wide range of customer service indicators, including numbers of complaints, call waiting times, and how easy it is to switch.
New regulations for firms who want to set up as energy suppliers are coming into force at the start of next month to prevent firms collapsing.
Ten domestic suppliers have gone bust in the last 18 months. Three of these were in the first three months of this year alone - affecting nearly 300,000 people.
Citizens Advice says lax licensing regulations led to a wave of new companies entering the market, but too many are struggling to provide a decent level of customer service.
It says these the new rules should protect customers in the future.
Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 1,000 calls about problems with the five suppliers at the bottom of the table from January to March this year. There were a number of recurring issues:
- Sudden increases in direct debits - including money being taken after customers had closed their accounts.
- Problems with prepayment meters - including some people being switched to this system without warning.
- Inaccurate bills - including problems with broken meters and smart meters.
- Failure to return credit refunds.
- Difficulty in contacting the supplier to resolve issues.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says: “Today’s rankings continue to show a number of firms struggling to deliver acceptable standards of customer service.
“The new rules which come into force next month will oversee new firms setting up as energy suppliers to make sure they’re fully prepared.
“But there also need to be stricter ongoing requirements and monitoring to tackle existing companies who are not serving their customers well.
“The energy supply market is not the free-for-all it once was. But there is still a big gap between those firms who provide excellent customer service, and a significant proportion who are letting consumers down.”
Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, says: “Our own complaints data reinforces the picture of an energy market that is very much split, with some firms providing excellent service and others causing significant and unacceptable levels of consumer detriment.
“We are seeing many of the same issues highlighted by Citizens Advice, such as failure to return credit refunds and problems with billing.
“Any consumer with an unresolved energy complaint can escalate the matter to us and we’ll investigate for free, requiring the supplier to put things right if we uphold the complaint."
Star ratings for energy suppliers from Citizens Advice
|Supplier||Rating for January to March 2019||Supplier||Rating for January to March 2019|
|Affect Energy||4.5||Flow Energy||3|
|Breeze Energy||4.45||E (Gas and Electricity)||2.88|
|So Energy||4.3||Ovo Energy||2.8|
|Igloo Energy||4.3||Together Energy||2.7|
|Engie||4.25||Robin Hood Energy||2.65|
|EDF Energy||4.15||Tonik Energy||2.65|
|Yorkshire Energy||4.15||Co-Operative Energy||2.55|
|Octopus Energy||4.05||PFP Energy||2.55|
|British Gas||3.9||Avro Energy||2.35|
|Bulb Energy||3.85||Green Star Energy||2.3|
|Green Network Energy||3.85||Solarplicity||2.3|
|ScottishPower||3.45||Outfox The Market||2.1|
|Shell Energy (formerly First Utility)||3.4||TOTO Energy||2.1|
|Utility Warehouse||3.05||Nabuh Energy||1.65|
Source: Citizens Advice 2019