An accurate bill is the top priority for energy consumers, according to a new poll by Citizens Advice.
The research is being released alongside the latest edition of the charity’s energy star rating which ranks domestic energy supplier on customer service.
Bill errors are the most common problem for people contacting the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline. They are also the most common complaint for customers of three of the bottom five suppliers (Ecotricity, Outfox The Market, Green Star).
After accurate billing (60%), the way complaints were handled (17%) and phone waiting times (12%) were the most important customer service issues.
Citizens Advice found more customers wanted to contact their energy supplier by telephone than any other method, and the majority expected the call to be answered within five minutes.
The energy star rating measures telephone response time. Citizens Advice asked customers which other methods they used to contact their supplier - and what level of service they expected:
The latest energy star rating, covering the period from June to September this year, shows Nabuh Energy at the bottom for the third quarter. Breeze Energy tops the table for the second time.
Toto Energy, which went out of business in October, was previously in 37th position with a score of 2.1. Fourteen domestic suppliers have gone out of business in the last two years.
Gean M came to Citizens Advice for help with an ongoing problem with Green Star Energy. She was paying by direct debit, and then topping up those payments when their bills showed they were using more than expected. Yet, when Gean and her husband wanted to switch energy supplier they were told they owed the company £900. They repeatedly asked for breakdowns of that bill but received no response.
Gean’s husband was then diagnosed with cancer and they decided, in order to reduce the stress of having the debt hanging over them, to use their savings to clear it.
After receiving what they considered threatening letters alleging they still owed Green Star money, Gean’s husband called from his hospital bed, but still the letters kept arriving.
Gean said after her husband died she again asked Green Star to stop sending the letters:
“They ignored me and continued sending letters. I went to Citizens Advice for help. They managed to get through to Green Star and again explained my situation. The letters did stop so I am grateful for their help.
“I am so upset with how they treated me and my husband.”
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Every energy supply company should be able to provide its customers with an accurate bill. It’s the very least people should expect.
“The inability of some suppliers to get this right causes a great deal of unnecessary stress for customers.
“Some of the difficulties experienced by people who come to us for help are a legacy of an under-regulated market. Too many under-prepared companies were allowed to set up as energy suppliers.
“Ofgem has recently proposed new regulations for new and existing suppliers. These should be put into effect as soon as possible.
“We’d like to see Ofgem making basic customer service such as accurate billing a top priority, and step in sooner when energy companies don’t meet decent standards of customer service.”