ScottishPower among firms at heart of rocketing complaints

Difficulty switching supplier was a common problem. Picture: PA
Difficulty switching supplier was a common problem. Picture: PA
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Customer complaints about energy firms leapt by almost a quarter last year, the Energy Ombudsman has said.

Grievances raised by consumers jumped by 23 per cent to 65,168 last year, compared to 52,937 in 2014, according to the independent adjudicator of disputes between the industry and its customers.

Billing continued to be the most common problem, accounting for 83 per cent of complaints in 2015. Late and inaccurate domestic bills were perennial issues.

Annual breakdowns of complaints by firms will be made available next month by the Energy Ombudsman.

However, in the third quarter of last year, the body said Glasgow-based firm ScottishPower received the most complaints, totalling 4,554, up 27 per cent from the previous quarter. The company has previously said the rise in the number of problems suffered by customers was driven by problems with migrating accounts onto the company’s new IT system, which it claims has now been resolved.

The Energy Ombudsamn report said customers who had problems switching either suppliers or tariffs accounted for nine per cent of grievances.

Chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “Energy complaints rose by nearly a quarter over the course of last year as customers continue to be more vocal about their discontent with suppliers.”

One bright spot in the data showed complaints in the final three months of the year fell by 29 per cent to 10,896, compared to 15,370 in the same period of 2014.

The chief ombudsman added: “Towards the end of the year, we’ve seen some suppliers take some encouraging steps, particularly when it comes to improving their billing processes, but there’s still more that can be done.

“We encourage anyone experiencing an ongoing issue to speak to us – be it for advice or resolution, we’re here to help and our complaints process is easy to use and free to consumers.”

In the last breakdown of complaints for the third quarter of last year, the Big Six fared worst.

Npower came second to Scottish Power with complaints rising by almost a quarter to 3,581, while British Gas was third with 1,305 complaints, a one per cent fall on the second quarter of last year.

The Energy Ombudsman investigates serious complaints between customers and suppliers, where both sides have been in dispute for more than eight weeks and have reached deadlock.