Energy firms’ customer service plummets to record lows, Citizens Advice says
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Energy companies’ customer service standards have fallen to new record lows, according to Citizens Advice.
With call waiting times rising and customers saying they can’t get hold of their supplier, the average score (2.8 stars) for the Citizens Advice’s ratings table is the lowest on record.
Standards have plummeted since June 2021 when the energy market started to collapse, with millions of customers shifted to new suppliers as a result of their own provider failing.
To prevent such a scenario occurring again, UK energy regulator Ofgem recently announced tough new measures to prevent waves of suppliers from failing during future periods of price volatility.
Citizens Advice is warning the decline is happening at a time when people need good customer service the most. Between January and March 2022, the charity’s Consumer Service helpline saw more than 70,000 cases related to energy issues – a 63 per cent increase on the same period the previous year.
Even at the top of the table, standards are spiralling down. The highest score is now just 3.6 stars, compared to 3.85 in the previous quarter and 4.65 at the same time in the previous year.
Energy suppliers are obliged to help people who can’t afford their bills, but Citizens Advice warns they’ve been struggling to cope with increased demand over the past year.
The charity is particularly worried about people on prepayment meters, who are at risk of having no gas or electricity if they can’t afford to top up.
The average time to wait on the phone to speak to an energy supplier is now around six and a half minutes (391 seconds), compared to just under four minutes (224 seconds) during the same period in the previous year.
Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “At a time when customers need all the support they can get, it’s worrying to see service performance is the worst on record. This leaves people frustrated and in the dark at the end of the phone.
“For many families on low incomes, life will get even harder when the price cap goes up again in October, despite government support.
“We recognise call centre staff are working incredibly hard to answer as many calls as possible, but energy companies must do better. This should include improving support services for people struggling the most. Ofgem should make sure suppliers are following the rules, and take action where needed.”
One of the largest energy firms to fail in recent months was Bulb, which had around 1.6 million customers when it collapsed. This meant it was too big for the government to allow it to go through the normal process that suppliers enter when they fail.
Despite being bailed out months ago, the firm has continued to be run by its co-founder Hayden Wood. But the government announced today that he would step down at the end of July while it looks for a sale of the group.
He will not be replaced, with the role being split among the remaining executive team.
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