A MAJOR energy firm has been warned that it must improve by the national regulator.
Ofgem also said 17 other suppliers have "weaknesses" ranging from moderate to minor.
The regulator has issued energy firm E.On with an order to improve its customer service after finding “severe weaknesses” during a review.
Ofgem said E.On’s performance on call waiting times and abandoned call rates was “very poor”.
It added that this “represented a severe deterioration in standards from when Ofgem previously analysed their performance”.
E.On supplies around 5.5million customers.
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Ofgem said: “Considering the current market circumstances and rising costs to consumers, it is likely that more customers will need to contact their supplier for advice on billing, payment options and payment difficulties, energy efficiency advice and debt."
The firm must now make improvements, which will be monitored closely.
The move is separate from Ofgem’s urgent investigation into practices at British Gas following reports the firm has been sending debt collectors to “break into” customers’ homes to “force-fit” prepayment meters – including in vulnerable households.
Ofgem’s review of customer service across the 17 suppliers found failings including customers being left waiting for hours on the phone on several occasions.
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It also found phone calls were simply not answered, with up to 50% of customers giving up and hanging up calls when they weren't answered.
There were high rates of customer complaints upheld by the Energy Ombudsman.
It comes as energy bill payers have also had to rely more heavily on government schemes, energy grants and other types of free cash to get by.
This means that customers are facing further issues and confusion, and relying on their supplier's support even more.
Other than the severe weaknesses at E.On, it also found “moderate weaknesses” at 11 suppliers.
Here is the full list of suppliers with "moderate weaknesses":
- British Gas
- E Gas and Electricity
- Good Energy
- Outfox the Market
- SO Energy
- Utility Warehouse
- Tru Energy
Minor weaknesses were found at five suppliers:
- Green Energy
None of the suppliers had "no weaknesses" at all.
Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem, said: “From being on hold for too long, to not being given clear information, or sometimes not getting through to suppliers at all, this review has highlighted that customer service is just not good enough.
Mr Lawrence said "it is clear" that improvements need to be made.
Ofgem acknowledged that calls to the suppliers are "getting more and more complex".
But that it expects suppliers to "respond dynamically", by updating processes, call handling scripts and having enough people to deal with the issues.
Mr Lawrence added that while the ask on suppliers may be greater due to these complexities, it’s clear that some suppliers have "risen to the challenge better than others".
He said: “This isn’t just about the energy industry in isolation; this is about raising standards, so we are in line with other customer retail standards – getting waiting times down, making sure calls are answered and being able to give helpful information about a critical service.
Ofgem said it will take further, firm action if improvements aren't made following the findings.
An E.ON spokesperson said: “We can’t and won’t shy away from the fact we weren’t able to provide the service our customers demand and deserve for a short period of time when demand increased drastically and unexpectedly across the industry, with a trebling in the number of people wanting to speak to us.
“But we can reassure our customers that even before Ofgem’s review we had already introduced a number of measures which are leading to improvements that will get us back to levels of service we can be proud of."
The firm said it will work "constructively" with Ofgem but it is "already delivering a range of improvements for customers".
How to complain about your energy company
If you have a complaint about your energy company, then you should take it to the Energy Ombudsman.
They handle issues between customers and suppliers.
If you've tried to resolve a problem with your provider and you're getting nowhere, the Energy Ombudsman will look at your case and see if they can help you deal with the complaint.
It helps resolve issues on billing, installations and delays, loss of service, customer service, and switching suppliers.
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If they help take your complaint on, they can only help back bill you for 12 months.
That means you won't be able to get help getting money back before this.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
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