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Energy complaints soar to record levels

Energy complaints soar to record levels

Category: Gas and electricity

Updated: 14/07/2014
First Published: 14/07/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Are you unhappy with your energy provider? Well, it seems that you're not alone, with complaints about energy companies having risen to the highest level ever recorded.

According to figures from the Energy Ombudsman, official complaints in the first six months of 2014 reached 22,671 – more than double the total of the previous six month-period (10,598) and already well above the full year's total for 2013, when 17,960 complaints were recorded.

In even more startling figures, complaints for one month reached a record total of 4,124 in June, up a whopping 216% compared to a year ago. The reasons behind the complaints are perhaps unsurprising, with billing-related issues accounting for 84% of all complaints between January and June (19,009), while transfer issues when switching to a new energy provider generated 2,988 complaints, or 13% of the total.

Given that the ombudsman deals with disputes that have been unresolved for at least eight weeks, it means there are a lot of unhappy customers who haven't had a suitable resolution from their providers.

"The spike in complaints is in part a result of the rising cost of living, but also as a result of consumers becoming more aware of their rights and feeling more empowered to act and fight for a fair deal. Addressing these concerns is crucial to restoring consumer confidence in the sector," said chief energy ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith.

The figures come not long after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that the energy market would be subject to an in-depth competition review, set to be carried out in conjunction with the Competition and Markets Authority, after concerns were raised about the big six potentially profiteering from consumers. A lack of competition means providers aren't compelled to offer better prices to attract customers, so it's hoped that the review will start to address some of the issues that people are facing.

One of those issues, it seems, is lack of faith in the switching process – and in some cases a lack of awareness that it's even possible. According to figures from Ofgem, the industry regulator, 77% of those living in rented accommodation have never switched energy suppliers, while 20% didn't know they could. Renters are half as likely to switch compared to homeowners, but it could be a very worthwhile decision – in fact, shopping around could save tenants as much as £200 a year.

If you're unhappy with your energy supplier, whether it's down to the service you're receiving or the amount you're paying, you don't have to put up with it. Switching to a different provider has the potential to save you hundreds of pounds, and you don't have to go for the major suppliers either. A lot of smaller, independent companies could well save you money, so use our handy comparison tool to find the tariff – and the supplier – that's right for you, and hopefully you won't need to add to the complaints tally…

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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.