Financial News

  • 4 December 2013, 6:38

Npower Customer Apology After Bill Errors

Energy firm npower has written to its 3.4 million customers to apologise after a sharp rise in complaints in the last year.

The German-owned gas and electricity supplier admitted that a glitch resulted in a number of bills and statements failing to go out on time, direct debit payments not being set up properly and some customer accounts having problems being started.

Regulator Ofgem said it had been concerned about a "serious deterioration" in customer service levels.

Chief executive Paul Massara pledged that anyone affected would not lose out financially as a result.

Npower will also donate £1m to a fund for vulnerable customers, with half of this channelled to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Ofgem welcomed the apology and payment, and said that after its intervention, npower had set out a recovery plan to ensure that service levels improve.

Research last month by Consumer Futures showed that npower had 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers for the April to June period.

This compared to 38.3 for SSE, which had the lowest level of complaints among the main energy providers.

Mr Massara said the problems arose after customer details were transferred onto a new computer system.

These led to its helpline receiving extra calls, resulting in longer waiting times for those trying to get through.

In the letter, Mr Massara wrote: "We've let many of you down recently in the overall levels of customer service we've been providing. We apologise unreservedly."

Around 700,000 customers are thought to have been affected by the problems, though it is believed the vast majority are not financially worse off.

Mr Massara said the issue was being dealt with as a "top priority", adding that hundreds of staff were working to address it.

Many customers affected had already been contacted individually to address specific problems and others would be, he said.

Anyone affected by payment problems as a result of the glitch would have repayment periods extended, Mr Massara added.

Ofgem senior partner Sarah Harrison said: "The huge growth in complaints about npower is wholly unacceptable and is an issue that Ofgem takes very seriously. That is why we intervened in this case.

"Npower's commitment that its customers will not lose out financially as a direct result of the company's billing system problems is important and we will expect npower to do all it can to identify and rectify such cases."

Npower recently announced a 10% average bill increase, but said it would reduce bills as a result of a shake-up of Government green levies.