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Consumer complaints to energy ombudsman up 71% in 2013



The energy ombudsman has revealed a striking increase of consumers complaining about their energy supplier in 2013 – a 71% rise compared to the previous year.

The last few months of 2013 saw a consistent increase of people dissatisfied with their energy provider, especially in relation to failed payments and confusion over complex tariffs.

Ombudsman Services, which sorts out consumer problems relating to energy and other areas, said that it received 3,600 complaints in October and November, compared to 1,598 in the same period last year.

It also said that the figure would have been much higher if more people knew about the service, and that new rules introduced by energy regulator Ofgem will make customers’ lives easier.

Chief energy ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said, “Our complaints figures tell us just how tough things are for consumers.

“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.”

In August, Ofgem announced a ‘revolution’ in the energy market, aimed at making things simpler for consumers, who were often misled and pay more than what they initially expected.

Ofgem’s reform limited the number of offers that companies can make to customers and made them lay out the fairest and cheapest energy deal available in a “jargon-free” way.

Energy suppliers were given time until the end of 2013 to implement the new rules. However, consumer groups are worried that they might not be enough to ensure clarity over energy tariffs.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said, “They just do not go far enough to boost competition and help consumers find the cheapest deals.”

Further reading:

Regulator supports calls to speed up energy supplier switching process

Energy customers switching suppliers at three-year high, says trade body

Scottish Power given £8.5m fine for misleading customers

Ofgem announces ‘shake-up’ to make retail energy market simpler

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013