Energy Complaints Soar By Staggering 224%
Complaints about energy companies have trebled in the first quarter of this year, according to the energy sector's ombudsman who is calling for "increased transparency".
The record figures showing a 224% rise in the first three months of this year come after regulator Ofgem said it was referring the energy sector to the Competition and Markets Authority for a full-scale competition inquiry.
Between January and March, complaints trebled to 10,638, compared with 3,277 received during the same period last year.
More than 2,000 consumers complained about not receiving bills, 1,474 people made complaints about billing charges, and over 1,000 consumers criticised the quality of customer service.
The numbers suggest that 2014 will see more complaints overall, as there were 17,960 complaints made over a 12-month period last year.
Chief Energy Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: "Consumer frustration and dissatisfaction is something that we hear about every day, and we welcome any attempts by Ofgem to make the energy market fairer.
"With energy complaints trebling in the first quarter of this year and problems relating to billing the greatest concern, increased transparency is something that should be addressed."
A spokeswoman for Energy UK, the trade body that represents the industry, said most customers had no problems with their energy company, but accepted that sometimes things go wrong.
She added: "If a customer has any concerns relating to their bills, they should contact their provider as soon as they can, and if possible have an up-to-date meter reading to hand which will ensure their bill is as accurate as possible.
"Energy companies work very hard to resolve problems and most complaints are fixed within a few working days with no more than a phone call."
The spokeswoman said there were new rules in force which made matters "more open and clear for customers including: explaining bills so people understand what they are paying; making it easy to switch; ensuring customers are on the right deals; and simplifying tariffs".
But Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, the consumer watchdog, said the rise in complaints was "further proof that the energy market is broken".
He added it was "right" that the energy sector had been referred for a full-scale investigation.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said the figures were "worrying", and added: "We would advise consumers to shop around and switch to find a better deal, whether on cost or customer service."