Utility Week

Utility Week 22nd November 2013

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Customers This week CBI asks chancellor to guarantee support for heavy energy users for the duration of the CFP CBI wants more help on carbon floor price The CBI has urged the chancellor to extend the period for which energy-intensive industries will be compensated for paying the additional costs caused by the carbon floor price. The director general of the CBI, John Cridland, wrote to George Osborne calling for Heavy user: CBI wants guarantee of support guaranteed support for heavy energy users for the duration of the carbon floor price. He said: "Investments are made with at least a tenyear profile in mind, so government must guarantee support for the duration of the policy, expanding the package to reflect its upward trajectory, if it is to anchor investment intentions." Cridland added that "further relief" could be given to large energy consumers by providing exemptions to energy produced by combined heat and power systems from the carbon floor price. The CBI also called on the chancellor to make changes to the Energy Company Obligation (Eco) in the Autumn Statement on 5 December. Cridland acknowledged that Eco was "an important policy" in terms of supporting vulnerable and fuel-poor households but said "it would be sensible to allow greater flexibility within the scheme". He added that increasing the number of measures eligible under the scheme would improve its cost effectiveness, and that the government should extend the scheme from 2015 to 2017 to give those delivering the policy "greater certainty". MB Energy Npower worst of big six for complaints Customer complaints to the six major energy suppliers have increased, according to a report by Consumer Futures. The latest information compiled by Consumer Futures revealed that Npower had received the most complaints – 202.5 per 100,000 customers – which was five times more than the best performing company for the period of April to June 2013. SSE recorded the lowest number of complaints (38.3), followed by Scottish Power (41), British Gas (55.5), Eon (59.9) and then EDF Energy (75.5). Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Futures, said: "Complaints about Npower over recent months put it in bottom place. "The company is implementing system changes that inevitably caused disruption to customers, however its complaints performance is unacceptable and the company must take further steps to tackle this. "Energy companies have repeatedly said they want to rebuild consumer trust. Good customer service and complaints handling are key ingredients to achieving this and suppliers still have a long way to go. "Companies must remember that many people view how a firm handles their complaint as a sign of how valued they are as a customer – so it is essential to deliver on this key issue." A spokesperson from Npower said: "We're working hard to make sure any issues are sorted as quickly as possible. We're sorry some customers haven't had the service they deserve and we're determined to put it right." Energy Decc encourages consumers to look at collective switching Consumers are being encouraged by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) to participate in collective switching schemes as a way to reduce their energy bills. Ahead of the Big Community Switch and the Big London Energy Switch auctions, which took place this week, energy secretary Ed Davey said they allow consumers to get a better price. He said: "Switching is one of the best ways that people can force the big six to compete on price and take control of their energy bills, especially if communities club together to get the best deal. "With 77 local authorities up and down the country getting involved, this is a really national collective switch – giving millions the opportunity to see what they can save." I am the customer Lewis Shand Smith With the recent media coverage concerning price rises, and as many consumers still feel the bite of the recession, it is not surprising that consumer complaints in the energy sector are rising. Customer services departments are no doubt feeling the strain, as more and more complaints come in and they become inherently more difficult to resolve. One piece of advice I can give, to assist you and your frontline advisers, is that a good "Handling complaints well builds confidence" complaints process will help to mend consumer confidence. Research has shown that a well explained and easy to follow complaints process increases consumer confidence – especially if you are able to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the consumer. Importantly, this doesn't 26 | 22nd - 28th November 2013 | UTILITY WEEK always mean giving them what they want, rather that you can show you have fully investigated their issues and are committed to putting things right where they have gone wrong. Good principles to follow are: empowering your frontline advisers so they can resolve the complaint at first point of contact if at all possible; having a clear escalation path; making sure the issue is fully understood; establishing what the consumer wants to happen; and staying in touch with the consumer throughout the process. If the complaint still isn't resolved, get a fresh pair of eyes on it, and if this doesn't help, make sure you advise the consumer of their right to come to us. Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith

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