Budget supplier Iresa has been branded the UK’s worst energy company for customer service, after Citizens Advice Bureau recorded 9,000 complaints per 100,000 customers for the firm between January and March this year.
The total is not only five times the number of complaints received by next-worst energy firm TOTO, it’s also the worst ever complaints score record by the consumer watchdog.
Iresa scored just 0.35 out of five stars for its customer service, with metrics including total number of complaints; customer ease in contacting the firm and switching providers; and the delivery of clear, on time bills. It was joined on the bottom rungs of Citizens Advice’s rankings by other small providers and new market entrants, including TOTO, Spark Energy, Avro Energy, and Robin Hood Energy, Nottingham City Council’s publicly-owned supplier.
Complaints about Iresa included one from a customer who received a bill for a one-off payment of £1000 and from another who tried unsuccessfully to contact the supplier for three months. Other common complaints were long phone queues, inaccurate billing, and customers being blocked from switching to another provider.
TOTO meanwhile was criticised for transferring customers to other suppliers without notifying them.
But it was Iresa’s abysmal score that prompted Citizens Advice to call for stricter regulations to protect households from poor customer service from energy suppliers, particularly the host of new suppliers challenging the market dominance of the ‘big six.’
“It is vital now that Ofgem does more to protect consumers from poor customer service,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
Iresa has been suspended from taking on any new customers since March, following a provisional order from the energy regulator. The ban was extended today following the publication of Citizens Advice’s rankings. The firm will also be unable to increase direct debits or receive one-off payments while the ban remains in place.
“Iresa continues to let its customers down by failing to provide a level of service its customers deserve,” said Dermot Nolan, Ofgem chief executive.
But Citizens Advice wants Ofcom to act further to protect households, including stiffening licensing rules.
“The regulator’s upcoming review of licensing rules must do two things: make it easier to stop unprepared suppliers from entering the market, and take poorly performing companies out of the market faster,” Gillian Guy said.
The poor customer service standards achieved by the challengers casts further doubt on the viability of smaller energy companies, particularly after the collapse of Future Energy and Brighter Energy World at the beginning of this year.
However it was another upstart energy company, So Energy, a renewable supplier, that topped the rankings, with a score of 4.8
SSE, coming in at number 4 with a score of 4.25, performed the best of the big six, which control 80% of the market. SSE is however set to merge with lower-ranked nPower, which notched a score of just 3.4, the third worst of the energy giants.
E.ON was the worst performing of the big six, scoring 2.95 stars out of five to rank 19th.
Citizens Advice collected information about customer complaints between January and March of this year from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, the Energy Help Unit, and the Energy Ombudsman.