Utility Week

UTILITY Week 20th June 2014

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UTILITY WEEK | 20Th - 26Th JUnE 2014 | 25 Customers This week Complaints against the big six hit new record Customer complaints continue to hit new highs and npower once again comes off worst Customer complaints against the big six energy companies have hit a record high of 1.7 million, according to figures from Which? The consumer group reported that the number of complaints in the first quarter of 2014 increased to 1.7 million from 1.48 million the previous quarter. Scottish Power received the lowest number of complaints, at 13.57 per 1,000 custom- ers for Q1 of 2014. Scottish Power said this was down to "legacy issues on our new service platform" and some cases taking longer to resolve as a result. However, it was the worst of the major suppliers for dealing with complaints on the same or following work- ing day, resolving only 50 per cent of cases within that time. This rose to 93.7 per cent for cases resolved within eight weeks, but still put the it at the bottom of the pile. The next worst at resolving complaints on the same or following day was British Gas (79.5 per cent), and within eight weeks was Npower (94.13 per cent). SSE had the second best record, with 27.6 complaints per 1,000, ahead of British Gas (30.84), Eon (32.76), and EDF Energy (46.14). Npower once again had the highest number of com- plaints, with 83.03 per 1,000 customers. A spokesperson from Npower said the company was "beginning to make progress" aer the problems caused by a new billing system, with complaint numbers down 32 per cent in the past three weeks. The spokesperson added: "We are absolutely committed to resolve all of the system issues and improve our service to customers." MB EnErgY Ofgem announces 17-day switching Energy suppliers will cut the time it takes to switch to 17 days by the end of the year, Ofgem has announced. The regulator has also published proposals to bring in next-day switching by the end of 2018. Switching currently takes about five weeks, including a 14-day cooling off period. Ed Kamm, chief customer officer at First Utility, which has been campaigning for faster switching since September, said: "The actions of a challenger provider providing fresh think- ing have been able to introduce meaningful change." Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said 24-hour switching could conflict with stricter rules on checking customer details that come in this September. Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It will be essential that suppliers do more to introduce simple pricing so consumers can see the best deal for them before they switch." EnErgY Eon exit fees probed Ofgem has launched an investi- gation into potentially incor- rectly overcharged or applied exit fees by Eon. The regulator is looking into whether the supplier complied with regulations in relation to the January 2013 price rises, announced in December 2012. Under the obligations at the time, suppliers had to give cus- tomers 30 days' notice of a price rise, giving customers a chance to switch before the increase and without incurring exit fees. An Eon spokesperson said the company had proactively reported its failure to Ofgem, adding: "Cheques refunding the money owed, plus interest, were sent to customers affected." EnErgY Ovo credit bonus 'not banned' Ofgem has denied accusations that it will ban a tariff that offers interest on energy balances. Ovo's offer of 3 per cent interest on direct debit balances conflicted with Ofgem measures to simplify tariffs. Some 83 per cent of the independent sup- plier's customers received the bonus last year. Ofgem insisted it was simply working to make sure it "stays within our framework to protect customers". Under the regula- tor's Retail Market Review, sup- pliers are limited to four tariffs for each payment method. Ofgem said the rules were "flexible" and allowed deals like Ovo's "where they are in the public interest". Ovo has been asked to apply for a derogation to continue offering the deal. Complaints are taking too long to resolve I am the customer Clare Francis "It will still take 17 days to switch to a new provider" It is good to see that households will be able to switch energy providers more quickly, but it is slightly misleading to suggest the process will take three days. The three-day switching time doesn't kick in until aer the 14-day cooling-off period has ended so it will actually still take 17 days for a switch to be completed. This is obviously an improvement on the situation at the moment when it takes between four and six weeks to change energy provider but and take advantage of cheaper energy bills. There are significant savings to be had: the average household could knock around £200 off their annual gas and electricity bills. So the millions of households that have never changed energy provider will be paying more than they need to and could benefit significantly by switching today. Clare Francis, editor-in-chief, MoneySuperMarket we think it could, and should, be quicker. MoneySuperMarket would like to see energy switching happen within seven working days – as it does with bank accounts – and there should then be a cooling-off period where customers can change their minds. This is what happens in other areas such as insurance: you can change your mind aer you have moved to a new provider. Ofgem's changes to the switching rules won't take effect until the end of the year, but people shouldn't wait until then to move supplier

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