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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Alex Lawson Energy correspondent

UK energy supplier customer service plunges to new low, survey finds

A gas cooker hob lit
Citizens Advice’s consumer service helpline handled more than 70,000 cases about energy issues in the first three months of 2022. Photograph: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Customer service standards have fallen to record lows at energy companies, with suppliers Utilita and Ovo Energy among the worst offenders, according to a new report.

Customers have had to wait longer for their calls to be answered and have regularly been unable to get hold of their supplier, research by Citizens Advice has found.

Many people have had to navigate an uncertain market that sent nearly 30 suppliers into administration and caused household bills to soar.

The annual energy price cap shot up by 54% to £1,971 in April and is expected to hit close to £3,000 in October. Citizens Advice called for urgent improvements to services before the autumn. It said its average rating had slipped from 3.2 stars out of 5 last summer to 2.8 in the first three months of 2022, the lowest on record.

The charity gave Utilita a 1.6 rating, with Ovo notching up 2.1. Ecotricity, E.ON Energy and Boost Power were also among the worst performers.

EDF Energy was ranked the best performer, with a 3.6 rating, just ahead of Leicester-based Outfox the Market and Bulb Energy, which went bust last November and is operating under a special administration status handled by the government.

Citizens Advice’s consumer service helpline handled more than 70,000 cases related to energy issues – a 63% increase on the same period the previous year.

The study showed the average waiting time to speak to an energy supplier on the phone is now about six and a half minutes, compared with just under four minutes during the same period in the previous year.

Companies responded to 62% of emails within two working days, compared with 66% during the same period in 2021.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “At a time when customers need all the support they can get, it’s worrying to see service performance is the worst on record. This leaves people frustrated and in the dark at the end of the phone.”

Moriarty said “energy companies must do better” and called on energy regulator Ofgem to “take action where needed”.

British Gas said in May that it was hiring a further 500 staff to deal with the rise in the number of customers struggling to cope with rocketing bills.

A spokesperson for Utilita said: “We acknowledge that we can do better, but we strongly believe Citizens Advice employs a methodology that is unfairly weighted against us as a smart prepay specialist.”

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