Under new rules introduced by energy regulator Ofgem, energy suppliers must publish their customer service rating provided by Citizens Advice.
These rules, alongside a number of others that have been introduced, are designed to support vulnerable customers amid growing concerns over high energy prices.
Ofgem confirmed that the customer service rating will enable the public to see how an energy supplier compares on issues such as call wait times and quality of responses.
Other requirements, which take effect from December 2023, will require suppliers to contact customers if they miss two monthly payments, or one quarterly payment, and check to see if they are struggling with bills. If so, suppliers will be required to offer support, such as affordable payment plans or repayment holidays.
Ofgem appears to be prepared to issue action on any energy suppliers that fall short on customer service standards. The energy regulator said in a statement that “Ofgem would not hesitate to take action, pointing to recent examples of firms making multi-million-pound payments for poor customer service such as unacceptably long call waiting times and call drop-off rates”.
These “examples” were covered by Current± in February 2023, whereby Ofgem’s fourth “deep dive” into energy supplier standards found that all 17 of the UK’s largest energy suppliers had weaknesses in consumer practices.
Ofgem to tackle weaknesses amongst energy suppliers
Severe weaknesses had been identified at E.ON and moderate weaknesses in customer service and complaints had been recognised at British Gas, E Gas & Electricity, EDF, Good Energy, Outfox the Market, OVO, ScottishPower, SO Energy, Utilita, Utility Warehouse and Tru Energy.
Minor weaknesses had been uncovered at five suppliers including Bulb, Ecotricity, Green Energy, Shell and Octopus.
The introduction of the new rules into supplier license conditions means it will be easier for Ofgem to take action where there is evidence of suppliers failing to meet these requirements.
“With recent global events increasing pressure on gas prices, it’s likely that bills will rise further. This is why the industry needs to do all it can to ensure good customer services and provide help with managing debt, especially for the most vulnerable,” Jonathan Brearley, CEO of Ofgem.
“In the last year, we have seen some good examples of suppliers stepping up their support for customers. However, despite this, the feeling of those on the frontline working with vulnerable households is that more still needs to be done.
“Long wait times to speak to someone on the phone. Letters not replied to. Lack of empathy for people’s personal circumstances. This needs to change and today we are setting out our expectations of suppliers this Winter, and how they will be held to account to ensure consumers can get hold of them more easily.
Brearley concluded: “In particular for vulnerable customers, we expect more proactivity and a more sympathetic response.”