Gas and electricity Updated:
ScottishPower has been hit with a 12-day sales ban for failing to meet customer service targets, after Ofgem, the industry regulator, found that the supplier failed to clear a backlog of Ombudsman decisions on customer complaints.
In November, Ofgem launched an investigation into ScottishPower's treatment of customers after finding that many were experiencing long call waiting times and receiving late bills, and that the firm was not implementing decisions made by the Energy Ombudsman.
As such, ScottishPower signed up to three voluntary targets to improve customer service within three months, or it would have to suspend proactive sales activities until the targets were met. These three targets were to reduce call waiting times to two minutes by the end of January 2015, to reduce the number of overdue bills to 30,000 by the end of December 2014, and to resolve any Ombudsman decisions that are longer than 28 days old by the end of November 2014.
While the firm has managed to achieve the first two targets, and has implemented various systems and remedies to improve things (including a new customer management system and giving free energy to customers with outstanding complaints), Ofgem has ruled that it failed to reach the target to remove the backlog for acting on Ombudsman decisions.
As such, the energy supplier is now banned from making proactive, outbound sales for 12 days. The ban comes into force immediately (4 March) and will run until 15 March, and incorporates all outbound telesales activities and all sales activities carried out by energy advisers.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem's senior partner in charge of enforcement, said:
"A sales ban illustrates the difficulties ScottishPower is having in delivering the levels of service customers deserve. While Ofgem's targets have driven significant improvements in ScottishPower's performance, we remain very concerned about how customers are being treated. As well as our ongoing investigation, we require ScottishPower to undertake an independent audit of its progress on improving customer service. We will keep the need for any further action under review."
ScottishPower blamed much of the service problems on moving to a new IT system, however it admitted that further improvements were necessary and committed to making the changes required, as Neil Clitheroe, CEO of ScottishPower Retail & Generation, said:
"The process of moving to our new system has been challenging and has resulted in service problems for some of our customers. We are determined to put this right. The voluntary commitments are now complete but we will continue to report our service performance on our website [and] will continue to work constructively with Ofgem to support the ongoing investigation.
"We are all fully committed to delivering continued service improvements, return to the high service standards long associated with ScottishPower and ensure that our customers realise the very real benefits of our IT system investment."
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