The number of customer complaints received by the Ombudsman Service about energy companies has tripled in a year, new figures have revealed.
The organisation, which handles dispute resolution for the energy sector, revealed that over the first three months of 2014, it received 10,638 complaints.
This compares to just 3,277 over the same period last year, and almost exceeds the number of complaints made in the whole of 2012.
Billing was one of customers’ biggest concerns, with 2,062 consumers complaining about not receiving bills and another 1,474 making complaints relating to billing charges.
Some 1,067 people also complained about the quality of customer service.
Last month, the industry regulator Ofgem called for a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the big six energy firms’ hold over the sector.
“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”, said chief energy ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith after the release of the new figures.
“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.”
James Padmore, head of energy at the price comparison site comparethemarket.com, added, “The market is clearly not working entirely in the consumer’s favour, which is why 43% of consumers do not trust their energy suppliers and complain about charges on their bills.
“These negative figures may lead to a positive outcome for consumers though, as they further highlight the need for a root and branch review of the energy market.”
Though the ombudsman cannot publish data revealing which companies received the most complaints, it is likely that the big six were the subject of the majority.
In February, it was revealed that the big six received more than 5.5 million direct complaints last year.
Meanwhile, green energy companies Ecotricity and Good Energy received the fewest number of complaints – 0.55 and 3.35 per 1,000 customers respectively. The average figure for the big six firms was 20.49.
The pair also recently came joint first in a Which? customer survey, with both of the renewable energy specialists achieving an overall customer satisfaction score of 82%.
Photo: Richard Rutter via flickr