Npower has been voted the worst energy company for handling customer complaints and their record has been called “unacceptable” by an energy industry watchdog.
Research from Consumer Futures which represents customers in regulated markets found that Npower had a total of 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers in the three months to the end of June 2013.
The figures do not include complaints relating to the recent energy price increases announced by five of the “big six” energy firms. The average price hike in the recent round of energy price increases was 9.0 per cent with Npower leading the way with an 11.1 per cent rise in gas prices.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “Price hikes of 36 per cent over the last three years, coupled with poor customer service have compounded the lack of trust in energy firms as households struggle to afford to have a warm home.”
Npower took over from EDF Energy in December 2012 as the firm with the biggest proportion of complaints and the rate of complaints has accelerated at an alarming level.
Audrey Gallacher, Director of Energy at Consumer Focus, said: “Complaints about Npower over recent months put it in bottom place. The company is implementing system changes that inevitably caused disruption to customers, however its complaints performance is unacceptable and the company must take further steps to tackle this.”
Roger Hattam, director of domestic retail business at Npower said: "We've had some challenges with a new computer system and we are sorry that this has caused problems for customers. I want to reassure them that we are working very hard and making progress in ensuring that these issues are resolved as quickly as possible."
In February 2013, the firm received 121.5 complaints per 100,000 customers. By the end of April this had increased to 169.1 and now it has gone up again by a further 15 per cent to its current level.
This compares with SSE, the energy firm amongst the “big six” with the fewest complaints at just 38.3 per 100,000 customers, more than five times fewer complaints than Npower.
Npower’s rate of complaints was more than double the amount of the next worst performer, EDF Energy with a rate of 75.5 complaints per 100,000 customers in the three months to the end of June.
E.ON and British Gas were next with 59.9 and 55.5 and Scottish Power was the second best of the “big six”, behind SSE with a complaint rate of 41.0.
Ms Gallacher said that it is important energy firms take note of customer complaints, particularly in a market that is dominated by mistrust following the recent price rises.
She said: "Energy companies have repeatedly said they want to rebuild consumer trust.
"Along with price, good service is important to customers. People want to know the relative performance on complaint handling to help them make informed choices when deciding whether to switch.
"Customer satisfaction with how complaints are handled is low across a whole range of industries and the same problems are seen over and over again."
However, a spokesman for Energy UK, the trade body that represents the energy industry said: "The vast majority of energy customers are happy with the service they get with only around one in every 1,400 customers likely to need to contact their supplier about a problem.
"Energy companies take their relationship with customers extremely seriously and work hard to improve customer service."
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