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Energy complaints are falling – but are we more satisfied?

Two women holding up happy and sad faces

Have you ever made a complaint about your energy company? Apparently the number of complaints has dropped, but does that really mean we’re happier with the service, or could there be other reasons for the decline?

It takes a lot for me to complain. Not because I’m always satisfied, but the reality is that finding a quiet time in the house after preparing a convincing case is a challenge.

So when I saw that energy companies are receiving fewer complaints it made me wonder whether companies are actually getting better – or whether people are just not complaining?

Fewer complaints = higher satisfaction?

Research from Consumer Focus records a general fall in complaint numbers, with particularly low numbers in April. What happened in April? Well remember the lovely extra bank holidays we had? It seems that people really did take time off – customers didn’t complain and the phone lines were also taking more time off.

So, there were lower numbers of energy complaints. Is this good news? Well, of course, it’s good to hear research about lower numbers of complaints and companies getting better at dealing with them. But is that the real story?

People tell us they aren’t satisfied with energy suppliers and constantly rate them as bottom when it comes to general satisfaction. We’re concerned that the energy industry isn’t really learning from complaints. Unlike the banks, there is no requirement for complaints against energy suppliers to be published in any standard format. We think that they should be.

Complaints should be published

At the moment, if you complain to a supplier and it isn’t resolved in eight weeks you can refer your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. Most of the complaints received by the Ombudsman are actually upheld in favour of the customer, however we don’t learn any real lessons from complaints. We don’t see any standard record of how suppliers compare to each other and we aren’t able to tell if they’re really improving.

Which? has told the government and suppliers that we think energy complaints made to the Ombudsman should be published. We should have regular reports every six months and this information should be available to everyone.

In the meantime, if you aren’t satisfied with your energy supplier then it’s always worth contacting them, even if it’s to ask whether they can offer you a better deal. Also, if you have a complaint and you aren’t satisfied then do go to the Energy Ombudsman. Most people who persevere with their complaint and go to the Ombudsman get a better result in the end.


Below, is the exact comment received from SSE. This relates to the complaint of misleading % increased tariff costs.

[Phil Holdsworth]
I can confirm we have communicated to alI our customers the electricity prices will increase on average by 11%. I can confirm your heating control energy unit price will increase by 14.92% and your standard unit price will increase by 17.53%.

When our prices are reviewed, we have to balance the need to collect our overall costs with the impact on different groups of customers. From time to time there is a need to rebalance between different types of of tariffs and within the individual tariff components (peak/ off peak and standing charge) in order to ensure that the correct price signals are in play across our range of tariffs.

Rising wholesale prices tend to have a larger impact on our range of off peak tariffs (including THTC) due to the higher energy component within the cost base for these types of tariff.

In general the off peak component of these tariffs incur a much lower charge for using the network, as a result energy becomes a more dominant cost, and these tariffs tend to be that much more sensitive to movements in the wholesale price.