ScottishPower told to improve service or face ban

Company has faced a number of complaints over late bills. Picture: PA

Company has faced a number of complaints over late bills. Picture: PA

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SCOTTISHPOWER has been told it needs to vastly improve its customer service within three months or face a sales ban from regulator Ofgem.

The industry watchdog has also launched an investigation into how ScottishPower treats its customers, following a deluge of complaints over late bills and poor handling of official complaints.

Ofgem has told the Glasgow- based firm that it has to answer all customer queries promptly, reduce billing backlog and resolve all outstanding Ombudsman complaints or it will be banned from continuing sales and marketing activities to prospective customers.

The firm has signed up to Ofgem targets to improve its customer service and said it would write individually to all customers who have experienced a service problem due to the implementation of a new customer management system.

It also pledged to “correct problems, pay appropriate compensation and ensure no customer is left financially disadvantaged”.

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Ofgem warned the firm, one of the Big Six energy companies, that it has to completely remove the backlog for acting on Ombudsman decisions for individual complaints by the end of this month; reduce the number of overdue bills from the current figure of 75,000 to just 30,000 by the end of December, and “significantly” improve the speed of answering customer calls by the end of January.

Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement at Ofgem, said: “The investigation we launched today is the third time we have used our new standards of conduct to make suppliers treat consumers fairly. This is a clear signal to suppliers to up their game and give consumers the service they are entitled to.”

ScottishPower said it had recently invested £200 million in a new customer management system and had increased its staff by 700 this year to manage all customer contact and complaints “as quickly as possible”.

In a letter to Ofgem, Scottish Power’s chief executive, Neil Clitheroe, said: “I would like to apologise unreservedly to any customer who has not received the level of service that they deserve from Scottish Power in recent months and provide my personal assurance that we will do what we can to correct every problem, pay appropriate compensation and ensure that no customer is disadvantaged.”

Tom Lyon, energy expert for uSwitch.com, said: “We applaud Ofgem’s strong stance on this issue. Poor customer service and billing problems are some of consumers’ biggest gripes with the industry.”

Ofgem earlier this year referred the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority for investigation.

Tom Greatrex, Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister and MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said ScottishPower was treating its customers “with contempt”.

“From frustrating call waiting times, to late bills, to a backlog of complaints – Scottish Power appears to be running its business on the basis of what it can get away with,” he said.

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