EDF tops energy complaint tables again
A familiar name has topped the latest customer satisfaction poll from the energy watchdog.
The poor old energy industry.
Barely a month after one of its key players announces a push to restore customer trust in the sector and it's hit by a wave of rather trust-eroding stories. Profit margins are soaring while energy tariffs remain crushingly expensive. Wholesale costs are dropping at a significantly faster rate than consumer prices.
And to add insult to injury, EDF Energy has had its wrists slapped for misleading households, in the shape of a £4.5 million fine.
The poor old energy industry.
The latest customer satisfaction survey from the energy watchdog Consumer Focus shows that EDF Energy remains the worst supplier. The company notched up 188.5 complaints per 100,000 customers in the fourth quarter of 2011.
That's more than double the average complaint level of 83 per 100,000 customers.
EDF said it was disappointed with the results, but was pleased to see that complaints had fallen by 14% since the third quarter of 2011.
npower emerged as the second worst with 97.8 complaints per 100,000 customers, followed by E.ON, the only company that had more complaints in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in the third. SSE came out best, with just 40.6 complaints per 100,000 customers.
But it’s not just Consumer Focus that has been giving EDF a headache over the past week.
£4.5 million penalty
EDF was also recently hit with a huge £4.5 million penalty from Ofgem for misleading customers by not always giving an accurate estimate of the savings they could make by switching. The amount was not a direct fine, as usually issued by the regulator, but a combination of £50 refunds to 70,000 vulnerable customers and a £1 million payment to the Citizens Advice charity.
Ofgem criticised the company’s sales process, stating that it left some customers exposed to risky products. EDF agreed to pay the penalty in full.
So what can you do if you find yourself on the end of shoddy service or mis-selling from one of Britain’s biggest energy firms?
Making a complaint
The first technique to learn before waging war on your energy company is how to complain properly. Here are a few pointers:
Be quick: The longer you sit on a problem, the harder it will be to remember relevant facts and the less chance you’ll have of getting a satisfactory outcome. As soon as something becomes an issue, report it!
Jump through the hoops: Find out what the official avenue for making a complaint is and use it. If the complaint involves a person or a department specifically, you may want to write to them as well. Find out their official job title and the exact address to ensure the letter doesn’t go missing.
Be specific: Stick to the facts. Explain what your problem is, how it is affecting you and what you want them to do about it. Likewise, make sure you include all information that may be relevant to your complaint. For example, account numbers and product codes, as well as phone numbers and an address on which the company can reach you on.
Keep records: Make a note of the exact timing of each and every call you make, as well as who you spoke to and what they say. Every time you send a letter, make a copy for yourself. If a package is especially important, you may want to use recorded delivery and get hold of proof of postage.
Be polite: Shouting and screaming at the person on the end of the phone may make you feel better, but it won’t help your case. Keep calm, polite and professional.
Call in the Ombudsman: If all complaints through the official channels fail, consider going to the Energy Ombudsman. This is an independent Ofgem-approved service designed to resolve complaints between customers and energy companies. It won’t cost you anything to use the service; however the ultimate result may take a few months. Make sure you let your energy company know if you’re planning on using the Ombudsman, as it shows you’re serious and may also put the frighteners on them and encourage them to act.
Fighting back against tariff hikes
A final tip is not so much concerned with customer service, but more price hikes – and how to fight back against them.
Legally, energy companies must give you 30 days’ advance notice of any price rises. From this point, you have 20 working days to reject the price hike. And if you do, you have another 15 working days to make arrangements to switch providers.
What’s more, throughout the switching period, your energy company has to keep you on your old, cheaper tariff.