Ofgem pressures energy firms to improve customer service levels

  • Energy regulator Ofgem has laid out new rules for gas and electricity firms
  • These rules will bolster lacklustre customer service and aid the vulnerable 

Energy firms are being forced to improve low levels of customer service with new rules from regulator Ofgem.

Gas and electricity firms have long been lambasted over low customer service levels. 

Charity Citizens Advice awarded no energy firm higher than 3.65 out of 5 stars for helpfulness in an October review. 

Meanwhile, This is Money has reported extensively on energy firm customer service mishaps like Ovo making horrific bill mistakes and other companies hitting households with 8,000 per cent bill hikes.

Customer disservice: Energy firms do not do enough to meet customers’ needs, Ofgem says

Earlier this year energy regulator Ofgem said that ‘supplier customer service on the whole is not meeting many consumers’ needs’, and mentioned long call waiting times and the ease of speaking to energy firm staff as particular issues. 

Now Ofgem has brought in new rules for energy firm customer service.

These rules are meant to make it easier for customers to speak to their energy firm and support those struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.

Ofgem will require energy firms to:

  • Be available via different contact methods and at times that meet customer needs
  • Prioritise vulnerable customers and their representatives
  • Offer free contact methods for people struggling to pay bills
  • Offer debt repayment plans and consider offering repayment holidays

Meanwhile, Ofgem is also making energy firms publish details of their customer service perfomance on their website.

Citizens Advice director of energy Gillian Cooper said: ‘By requiring suppliers to display their Citizens Advice star rating we hope companies are encouraged to improve their customer service quickly when we identify issues.

‘If anyone is unhappy with their supplier then check the star rating, as there might be something better out there.’

Energy firms that breach the new rules can be punished by Ofgem.

The energy regulator also hopes that energy firms will now start to compete on customer service levels.

The Ofgem price cap limits how much energy firms can charge customers on variable-rate tariffs paying by direct debit – currently more than 80 per cent of UK homes.

The price cap is currently £1,834 a year for average energy use, going up to £1,928 a year from January 1. 

How to escalate your energy complaint

If you cannot get anywhere with complaining to your energy company, you can take gripes to the Energy Ombudsman.

This is a free service which handles customer energy grievances around customer service, billing, switching suppliers and more.

Before you can raise a complaint with the Energy Ombudsman, you must first speak to your supplier and put in a formal complaint.

If you do not hear back within eight weeks, or it has been eight weeks since they gave a final decision, you can go to the Energy Ombudsman to make a further complaint.

It can take months to get a decision. However, it is possible to appeal if you think the Ombudsman has been unfair.

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