Ombudsman complaints about energy firms up 71% in 2013
It’s now a happy new 2014 but energy companies are still making the news-probably because it’s still cold and we’re all still paying through the nose. However, there has been some good news amongst the hate-mail, like the news that British Gas is cutting bills- thanks to the Government scrapping levies charged- a move that has now been followed by Scottish Power.
But while we wait for news of a, surely inevitable, price cut (or, strictly speaking, lower price increase) from the other energy firms, perhaps 2014, coupled with the Ofgem-ordered new ‘easy to understand’ tariff system will mean a better year for energy companies. Let’s face it, it could hardly get much worse.
2013 saw a bumper crop for Ombudsman complaints about the various energy companies, with new figures released by the Ombudsman Service showing that complaints in 2013 were up 71% on the previous year. Complaints in October and November rose by an even higher margin- 1,598 complaints in 2012 became over 3,600 in the same months in 2013.
Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “We are now receiving more than 300 complaints a week, and often these come from people who have been confused by the tariffs on offer. Ofgem’s new rules make life simpler and fairer for consumers, which can only be a good thing.”
But Ofgem think these figures should be even higher- suggesting that many complaints don’t make it to the Ombudsman because people simply aren’t aware of its existence. A new report by Gfk NOP and Ofgem showed that only one in 20 (5%) of surveyed complainants escalated their complaint to the ombudsman and of those that didn’t, nearly a third (33%) didn’t know it existed. Additionally, lack of awareness is concentrated in some smaller and more vulnerable groups- those on annual household incomes under £20,000, state pensioners and the disabled are the least likely to escalate a complaint to the ombudsman.
Ofgem and the Ombudsman Services:Energy are now working together to raise awareness of the Ombudsman service, with Ofgem considering reducing the ‘wait period’ before a complaint can be taken to the Ombudsman from eight weeks down to six.