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Energy customer satisfaction – how’s your supplier’s service?

Bulbs being held

The results of the biggest ever energy company satisfaction survey are out. And it’s not good news for the major energy suppliers. Would you be prepared to switch energy provider for better customer service?

In our biggest ever energy company satisfaction survey, we asked more than 10,000 people about their experiences with their energy suppliers. Our full table of results shows ratings and customer scores for 15 energy companies in Britain and two in Northern Ireland.

The smaller suppliers scored highly, with Good Energy finishing top, followed by Ecotricity, Ebico and Utility Warehouse.

Meanwhile, the biggest energy suppliers were left out in the cold. SSE, Eon, Scottish Power and British Gas lagged behind their smaller competitors, while Npower and EDF Energy came bottom of the table.

The results highlight yet another example of how the energy market is broken with the largest suppliers, who dominate the market, failing to compete on customer satisfaction. At Which? we’re calling for radical new action to increase competitive pressure so that you can be certain you’re getting a good deal. We want the introduction of a single unit price so that energy costs can be easily compared at a glance, just like petrol forecourt displays, making it easier for you to find the best deal.

The power of customer service

Best and worst energy suppliersGood customer service had a big impact on how companies scored in our survey. Good Energy and Ecotricity both scored the highest mark with five stars. Down at the bottom of the table, EDF Energy and Npower only scored two stars for customer service.

We also asked for people’s experiences with their energy supplier’s customer service. This Npower customer struggled to get any service at all: ‘They don’t answer my emails’.

An EDF Energy customer was left hanging on the line: ‘It takes far too long to get through to someone on the phone’. British Gas could have been more helpful for this customer: ‘Not at all helpful when dealing with queries’. And SSE gave one customer the silent treatment: ‘They never returned my phone calls’.

What’s the cost of good service?

Our survey also showed that good customer service doesn’t have to mean paying a premium for it.

Good Energy was about 20% more expensive than the cheapest deal on the market, but that’s just £42 a year more than British Gas’ standard tariff*. Other small suppliers like Ovo Energy and The Co-operative Energy have some of the cheapest tariff on the market at the moment. So, getting good service doesn’t automatically mean having to compromise on price.

Have you had a good experience with your energy supplier, or have you found its customer service seriously lacking?

*Tariff price comparisons based on average annual consumption of 16,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity, paying by monthly direct debit, credit meter (not Economy 7) and for the region closest to average. Correct on 10 January 2013.

Comments

I am with npower this year. At the switch over there was confusion because I had an economy 7 meter but did not want an E7 tariiff. My previous provider E-ON simply added the two readings together but npower couldn’t do this. They said they would change the meter. Nothing happened for 3 or 4 months – my fault for not chasing – and I was billed two tariffs. I then emailed them, got an instant response, a new meter fitted, and the bill corrected from the contract start date.
Another issue required sorting and again it was done promptly They phoned me in response to emails and dealt with it very well.
I was expecting the worst but got a good service. Am I alone?

Wendy says:
24 January 2013

I don’t know if you’re alone in your good service Malcolm, but I certainly don’t share your experience of npower. I had solar panels fitted in July & they seem to have messed up at every stage of the FIT process as I’ve had to chase them at least a dozen times overall until I finally got my first quarterly payment last week (I missed the 1st quarter payment because they took so long & would have missed the second if I hadn’t chased them!).

andrew sutherland says:
24 January 2013

I’ve just swapped from Eon to Npower for electricity, is this a wise move seeing this?

J R Cave says:
24 January 2013

We are at the mercy of unscrupulous companies ripping everyone off. All companies whether it be energy, food or rent over charge to make profit for shareholders pockets.

what does this tell us I think we all should buy shares when we can afford to then we might be able to have more of a say instead of it being all up to our politicians and mates.

Why the popular rant about unscrupulous companies? Most companies – certainly those I worked for – are in a competitive market where they use all their skills just to make a profit and keep the businesses that provide employment going. As we’ve seen in other conversations, those that don’t keep up fall by the wayside, losing jobs (and shareholders’ money). Let’s see the evidence of lack of scruples before condemning all and sundry – making a profit is not it.

I think it would be useful if everyone understood how companies operate, and that to remain in business it is necessary to make a profit. Having said that, there are many examples of unacceptable behaviour of companies, which is one of the reasons that organisations such as Which?, Trading Standards, ASA, etc. exist. One common example that rightly attracts considerable public criticism is the vast salaries that key people are paid in some companies.

Certainly it is unhelpful to make sweeping generalisations but thank goodness that some members of the public are prepared to take appropriate action when a company is unscrupulous.

I switched to OVO as I wanted to give a smaller company a chance , but they keep trying to raise my Direct Debit to way above the level needed. The first time they did it, I refused, complained and they stopped. They also tried to do the same with my parents. When it was renewal time, I told them I was thinking of leaving, for that reason, and was assured it was an error. I renewed and not long after, they tried to raise it to a level that, by their own admission, would leave me £hundreds in credit for my power! Sorry, it stays in MY bank account , not theirs ! I was happy to accept it was an error the first time, but it seems more like policy when it happens again. Am leaving when contract is over.

This is a common problem, so switching might not help. I signed up for an online account in the hope that by providing readings whenever needed I would be able to put an end to excessive direct debits and my account being substantially in credit. I phone e.on periodically about this and they do take action, but within months they are playing the same game. I would not mind if they offered a decent interest rate to those with credit balances of over £100.

Chris C. says:
24 January 2013

Joined OVO October 2012. just in time before the round of price increases. previously with EDF for a 1 year and they tried to pull a sneaky price increase just before my 12 month fixed tarrif was up for renewal. So I shopped around and found OVO. who were by far the cheapest tarriff at the time . so far had no problems or direct debit increases on my calculated monthly payment. which was worked out before I signed up and I was assured that as long as the readings were submitted each month and I stayed within my paid allocation there would be no increase .
Wavechange , they do pay 3% intrest on any overpayment each month and it is deducted off the next months payment .. 3% intrest is decent and you don’t need to have a threshold amount to trigger it . To sum things up . so far quite happy with OVO.

Leslie says:
24 January 2013

I’ve been with OVO for 14 months. As a low-end user, I feel they have a hidden target of driving my credit via DD up to at least £250 – even in the summer months. I have complained a couple of times and they have reduced the DD amount. What really irritated me was that their website promises very clearly that they will review the DD amount twice a year but they failed to do it in the first year, or failed to tell me. The 3% doesn’t amount to much when they have control of your money and probably make a lot more than 3% when it’s added to all the other surpluses they hold. All the same, I’m reasonably happy with OVO.

OVO tell me that they like to have you in credit so you don’t have any debts at the end of the year ( no issue with that) and cheerfully say that they pay 3% on your credit balance. The problem with it is that a) they want far too much in credit , b) my ISA pays as much and I can withdraw it if I want, and c) I was told when Enron failed, if an energy business should fail and you are in credit with them, you lose your money, there is no scheme that protects it . Which rather reinforces my preference to have my money in my account not theirs.

Wavechange – not a problem I’ve had with either E-On or npower. In fact after npower corrected my tariff they stopped taking direct debits for the electricity for a while; I contacted them to make payments to keep me in line with usage.
On renewal, tariffs have increased a little but, because of extra insulation, I hope to use a bit less gas than last year (although the last couple of weeks may have set that back!). I asked if they were likely to change my direct debit and they reassured me that unless it looked like bills were increasing, they would not. I hope their service stays like this – it has been personal, quick and somewhat unexpected. (Not a shareholder!)

Malcolm – Although I have found e.on (and Powergen before them) a nuisance they have always responded positively to my requests, for example by making a refund or not raising a direct debit. Their bills are superbly clear, recent bills are available online and it is easy to speak to someone. If only their system for working out appropriate debits took better account of past use there might be no problem at all. Now that I’m retired and at home during the daytime I am using more fuel and perhaps there will be less of a problem, if I decide to stay with e.on.

e.on is certainly not the only energy supplier that keeps many people with health credit balances. I suspect that this is done to cut down the number of people with estimated bills who might find they have accumulated a large bill.

I would love to be able to just pay for what gas and electricity I use by direct debit, based on my own meter readings. That is what I hoped would happen when I chose an online tariff.

Nouey says:
24 January 2013

I used to be with First Utilty until they tried to charge me 10 times what they should for one months usage, almost £1000 instead of £100. It took 18 months to sort this out. I wrote, recorded delivery, to the MD and head of customer service, neither had the decency to acknowledge my letter let alone resolve the problem. Simply the worst customer service I’ve ever dealt with. The Ombudsman was near to useless as they wouldn’t get involved until formal complaints procedures were followed which is ok as long as First Utility put something in writing, which they didn’t until he end. After 18 months i was at my wits end but finally got £60 compensation and acceptance they had made a mistake. Don’t go near them.

I would also agree as experience to date with 1st Utility has not been good at all. I switched dual fuel last July and also moved my Mothers account at the same time, both previously with BG. Their web site is very buggy, very slow and reached a point where I could not enter meter readings. Struggled over several weeks to get any form of positive response from their customer services and after much frustration and emails have eventually managed to elicit the first statement/invoice on both accounts after over five months of supply, both of which are based on estimated readings.I am under the impression that1st Utility operate monthly statement, so can only hope that the one statement is approximately correct as I do not want a big surprise with any adjustments if the balance should prove to be seriously incorrect if they ever get around to auditing the accounts and meters!

Stephen O'Malley says:
24 January 2013

I read the comments about messing and re-quoting previously agreed direct debit payments. I myself am with EDF and sadly they are exactly the same. They tell us they don’t want us to be paying sums that leave us with large amounts of credit in our accounts when you send your instructions they agree for a time and then a few months later start to insist that you raise them again only to find at the end of the billing period you are still massively in credit. I now work out what I have used by looking at old bills over say two years and divide by 12 after adding £20 for the year and sent that instruction to them. Any further letters I tell them the existing instructions apply.

Below is a copy of an Email sent to Scotish Power that just about sums it up.

Today I contacted you re coming of the night rate for electricity, I wanted you to add both night and day readings together and use the sum to charge me the day rate however due to your Intransigent attitude you could not do this and wanted to charge me to change the meter to a single tariff meter.
You have now lost me as a customer because I have found a supplier who can charge as I mention above, “no trouble sir”.
Prior to today’s lengthy phone call I have contacted you through your website explaining I want to come of the dual electric tariff, both times I received an automated response then heard no more, checking via the website I find my queries have been closed.
Good bye
R Solomons

The new company Utility Warehouse

Rod, as my post above, npower were also unable to add the two readings together from my Economy 7 meter (it does seem strange). However, they did change the meter free of charge. They also told me if my circumstances changed such that Economy 7 was beneficial, they would change the meter over again foc.

I would have stated come OFF the dual electric tariff.
I have had excellent customer service from Scottish Power I made an error in my online banking and did not pay Jan payment which automatically put me on standard rate contacted by phone was offered fixed rate till April 2014 without penalty if I changed supplier, agent contacted complaints dept., on my behalf I checked my online mail discovered fixed rate changed till Sept 2015 with penalties and noticed complaint had been changed to closed I then phoned now put back to tariff previous to new year error.

I am with npower and have had no problems since switching from British Gas. I have tried comparison sites but always seem to find that no-one is cheaper for me than npower – maybe I am not doing it right but as I have had no problems with them I will continue to be a customer until they cause me a problem or I find someone who genuinely is cheaper. A simple way to compare is what we all need and is what the government should have insisted on.

I’m very surprised and somewhat upset by your findings as I was switched from my previous supplier as a result of the which campaign to find its members the best energy deal available to them. If I remember correctly the CO-OP deal was the overall winner of the bidding process but I was advised that EDF offered me a better deal.

I am aware that I had the option of sticking with my supplier EON but was swayed by the information supplied by “Which”

However, so far my dealings with EDF have been OK and they even fulfilled their promise to advise me if another company was able to offer me a better rate. As the difference was minimal I stayed with EDF.

Since then I have had a 2.5kw solar panel system installed on my roof and EDF have worked speedily to ensure that I am registered for the Feed in Tarifffor which thet are the Licencee.

Time will tell if the advice I received from “Which” proves to be Sweet or Sour ? At this particular moment I’m not very happy!

aliceada says:
24 January 2013

I took part in the big switch and swapped to co-op energy, the switch was done very quickly and I had no problems with either SSE ( my previous supplier) or Co-op. The savings quoted seem to be on course but I won’t know for sure until the end of the year. Very happy so far.

joyce lomax says:
24 January 2013

I switched to M&S Energy for electricity and gas a year ago and was happy so also switched to them for phone also. Happy up to now.

ruth c says:
24 January 2013

I was with Scottish Power for eight years and they were very good and efficient. However, in June 2011, they raised their prices quite considerably so I looked round for another dual fuel provider. EDF quoted a reasonable price and I joined them. What a change! Instead of receiving my bill on the same day as I had sent the meter readings online, I often had to wait more than a week before I knew what I was being charged. EDF just seemed so incompetent and did not answer emails. I stayed with EDF for the year to which I had signed up and then looked around again at all the companies. The best offer was Scottish Power – a two year fixed deal – so I went back to them. EDF charged me the wrong amount on my final bill with them but I complained to them and they reluctantly put it right.

I am currently with First Utility for duel fuel and will be reviewing whether to switch soon. I have solar pv panels and so recieve the feed in tariff payments via First Utility. Can I expect a smooth change to a new supplier should I decide to switch, or are there complications with the feed in tariff switch?

Derek says:
25 January 2013

Malcolm, you are not alone. I have been with npower for more than 4 years as all the comparisons regularly show me that it offers competitive tariffs for my usage. I have switched between their tariffs with no problems. When I have phoned them I have always got a rapid response and my requests have been implemented faultlessly. My only complaint is the number of tariffs and the rapid changes in them, but that goes for most other providers as well. Frankly I am puzzled why Which always ends up with such a poor rating for n-power. I have had the same experience with Talktalk, which regularly gets a slating from Which, but provides me with a cheap fast reliable broadband and phone service. Consequently, although I find Which product testing largely in line with my experiences, their services testing does not conform.

Brian says:
25 January 2013

I switched from Utility Warehouse to Co-op Energy as a result of your price exercise. So far, Co-op have not performed well for me. I joined for Gas and Electricity, but suddenly after three months I found that Electricity disappeared from both bills and meter readings. When queried, Co-op said Scottish Power had taken over my Electricity – what nonsense! Why? My monthly Direct Debit has reduced and I have no access to how my electricity costs are building up. I also badly miss Utility Warehouse’s very clear postal billing, and easy telephone meter reading submissions. I would rather pay my actual usage each month, than a guesstimated equalised amount.

I have been with Scottish Power for a few years now and have an online dual fuel fixed price deal until 2014 which includes boiler breakdown.
I have had no problems with supply or billing but the boiler breakdown cover is the absolute pits and does not even rate on a scale of one to ten, the customer service likewise. Nobody should be tempted by offers based only on the bundling in of breakdown cover. Scottish Power uses a different company to run its breakdown scheme, which in turn sub-contracts the actual work to engineers who will probably be unfamiliar with your boiler and will have difficulty making a proper diagnosis and sourcing parts. This is my recent personal experience. If breakdown cover is needed, my advice is to use a brand specific engineer or find a reliable local engineer who can source parts rapidly and locally.

I swapped from npower to the Co-op energy six months ago on the advise of Which. I find them very good to deal with and the accounts very easy to understand. I keep my bungalow at a constant 20 Deg C and after all this cold weather I am still in the black with account. Full marks to the Co-op energy.

B Hall says:
25 January 2013

I cannot fault Scottish Hydro for their Customer Service this week. A telephone call from me about a sudden power cut at 8.15 am was answered immediately by a human being, who confirmed that there was a major fault affecting 600 properties, and the engineers were heading out to the rural sub-station. A follow-up call was promised less than 2 hours later, but within 30 minutes we had a call to say that re-setting the trips may restore power fairly quickly, but if not they would update us by 10.00 am. Shortly after 10.00 am we had another call to say that the snow was hampering access to some areas, but in the continued absence of power, a further update would be made at mid-day. A phone call just after 12.00 noon confirmed that we were amongst the last 70 properties still to be reconnected, but power should be restored within the hour. This happened twenty minutes later. We then had another phone call the next day apologising for the inconvenience and hoping that we had had no further problems. Full marks for keeping us informed on a regular basis.

Hi all, thanks for all your great comments. We’ve featured quite a few in this week’s comment round-up. One of which is our Comment of the Week… who is it? https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/best-and-worst-energy-supplier-customer-satisfaction-comments-opinions/