Energy customers get stiffed again
Energy customers get a rum deal - they're penalised for loyalty by their suppliers who relentlessly hike prices and then they have to deal with moronic customer service departments when something goes wrong.
The only solace for an energy customer who is pulling their hair out over their current supplier's shortcomings was switching company - giving the proverbial two fingers up to one of the big six firms on the way out.
But now not even that fleeting moment of revenge provides any respite. No - new data revealed there are now more unresolved complaints about switching suppliers than there are about customer service in the energy industry.
However, if you go to A Spokesman Said, you can find the best deal for you and switch easily.
In total, 28 per cent of the switching gripes the Ombudsman handled were about small suppliers, compared to just 15 per cent the year before.
It handled 1,016 switching complaints – a 14 per cent annual increase on the same period of 2017.
The Energy Ombudsman announced that complaints about billing top their list of energy customer nightmares.
Isn't it amazing that if you're just a day late with your energy bill you get a letter through the door and the phone calls start, but when they overcharge you it feels like a war of attrition to get the dosh back?
Billing problems, such as disputed balances, disputed usage and delays, were responsible for 13.2 complaints to the Ombudsman per 100,000 customers.
But customers who switched to a smart meter have also been complaining in their droves as their new, supposedly high-tech, devices 'go dumb'.
'Going dumb', a phrase which could seemingly apply to many Premier League footballers, means that when you have a boiler installed by one firm but decide to switch to another company instead, the device can stop working.
This has been compounded by the fact that many energy suppliers are still installing 'first generation' boilers, which will soon be outdated and could potentially need replacing.
Customer service was the third biggest driver of complaints to the Ombudsman behind billing and switching with 1.69 complaints per 100,000 customers.
Matthew Vickers, chief executive at the Energy Ombudsman, said: 'Switching energy supplier can help consumers get better value for money and better customer service, so it's important that they can have confidence in the switching process.
'Our data shows, however, that too often changing supplier can cause issues that take weeks to resolve and require escalation to us as the ombudsman.
'Problems that we see include everything from customers being switched in error, to delays in refunding credit balances to departing customers.
'The message to suppliers is that regular switching is the new normal. A customer who has just left you could potentially be a customer again in future.
'It's therefore good business sense to treat switching and offboarding as part of your customer journey and ensure that any complaints are dealt with quickly and to the customer's satisfaction.'
He adds: 'We feel it's essential that complaints are used to learn lessons, make improvements and raise industry standards.
'Suppliers shouldn't treat automatic compensation as a business cost without addressing the underlying issues.'
The Energy Ombudsman, which is authorised and appointed by the energy regulator to resolve disputes between suppliers and their customers, welcomed the introduction of automatic switching compensation but said suppliers shouldn't just award compensation without trying to fix the root cause of the problem.
First they hike prices, then they make it as difficult as possible to switch - surely the energy industry needs tighter regulation?
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