Too many energy companies are struggling to deliver good customer service, with a quarter of suppliers failing to achieve even half-marks, new data from Citizens Advice has revealed.
Ten providers were found to receive just one or two out of five stars in the latest customer service league table from the watchdog (see below).
Small supplier Nabuh Energy finished last with only 1.65 stars out of 5, closely followed by Eversmart and Utilita, both of which were stuck with a rating of 1.8.
In comparison, the ratings reveal that just nine suppliers scored four or more.
Citizens Advice said there were too many energy firms not providing good customer service
The Big Six provider, SSE, topped the list with an impressive 4.6 out of five stars.
Two small suppliers, Affect Energy and Breeze Energy, followed the energy giant with 4.5 and 4.45 out of five, respectively.
The energy star rating compiles data from all companies with more than 25,000 customers. The results cover the period of January to March 2019 and includes 39 suppliers with 99 per cent 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.
Energy suppliers are then given a score out of five for each category before an overall star rating out of five is given.
Although many of the smaller suppliers have been rated highly, new regulations are due to come into force at the start of next month for firms who want to set up as energy suppliers, in an effort to stop the number of companies collapsing.
Under the new rules, applicants will need to demonstrate they can adequately fund their operations for their first year, outline how they expect to comply with key regulatory and market obligations and show their intentions to provide a proper level of customer service.
It comes after ten domestic suppliers ceased trading in the last 18 months alone – with three going bust in the first three months of this year, affecting nearly 300,000 people.
Citizens Advice has said these tighter rules, which come into effect on July 5, should protect customers in the future but that too many existing companies are still struggling to provide a decent level of customer service.
The charity added that lax licensing regulations were the reason there was a wave of new companies entering the market.
SSE topped the list of the best energy firms whilst Nabuh Energy came last with a score of 1.65
Many of these new suppliers do offer great service with four of the top five made up from smaller providers, including Affect, Breeze, So Energy and Igloo Energy.
However, others were not prepared for the demands of the energy market and the change of wholesale costs.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘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.’
Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 1,000 calls about issues with the five suppliers at the bottom of the table (Outfox the Market, Toto, Utilita, Eversmart Energy and Nabuh Energy) from January to March this year.
There were a number of recurring issues including:
• 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.
Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, said: ‘It’s worrying that so many suppliers are receiving poor ratings for customer service.
‘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.
‘We are keen to work closely with all energy suppliers to help them improve their complaint handling and customer service more broadly.’
|Supplier||Star 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|
|Utility Point||3||Source: Citizens Advice|