The volume of complaints to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) about the selling methods of gas and electricity firms rocketed sevenfold last year, according to a report published today.
The statistics reflect problems with mis-selling and doorstep selling in the industry which led to substantial fines for several energy suppliers in 2013.
Overall, CAS dealt with 9,869 issues relating to energy in 2012-13 – an increase of 4 per cent on the previous year.
The number of problems relating to unsafe goods more than doubled, according to the report, while 3,648 people came to advisers with problems paying rising fuel costs.
Last year, a number of firms, including Perth-based SSE and Npower, were fined by regulator Ofgem for breaching doorstep or telephone sales rules.
The report showed that the number of complaints about selling by energy companies rose 581 per cent from 111 to 756.
“It’s clear from this report that too many consumers in Scotland experience problems with their energy supply, leading to cold homes and empty wallets – not to mention a lack of trust in the industry,” said CAS spokesperson Sarah Beattie-Smith. “Nobody should be faced with the stark choice of heating or eating, but the cases in our report show that Scottish households face that choice day in and day out.”
The total number of complaints dealt with by Citizens Advice bureaux in Scotland rose by nearly a third compared with the previous year, but that was partly due to the transfer of a dedicated consumer telephone helpline to Citizens Advice.
CAS called for energy companies to implement a range of measures, from automatically fixing pre-payment meters at the lowest possible tariff to offering callback services and, wherever possible, free contact numbers. CAS also said government and housing organisations should ensure that the pressure of increasing energy costs is taken into consideration when people apply for discretionary housing payments.
A spokesman for Energy UK, which represents utilities, said: “Accusations of mis-selling by Energy UK members are misleading and simply risk putting people off seeking out the deals and support that is there. Our members do not doorstep sell and have not done so since early 2012.”
A spokesman for regulator Ofgem said recent reforms, including simplifying the energy market, would make the industry fairer for consumers.