Home power retailer E.ON Next Energy is to pay £5 million in compensation for poor standards of customer service, in consequence of repeated probes by Ofgem.
The energy regulator last year examined suppliers’ service performance in a bid to drive up standards. Among weaknesses at many, it found E.ON Next was the worst, due to its long call waiting times and high rates of calls abandoned.
Between October and December 2022, the review found E.ON Next struggled to cope with customer contacts. Average waits on the retailer’s amusingly named “help line” averaged 18 minutes. Unacceptable call drop-offs mis-managed by E.On Next meant 50 percent of customer calls failed entirely to connect with a competent agent.
Over 500,000 customers were potentially affected, Ofgem said today.
After Ofgem’s action, E.ON Next says it has taken steps to re-gain its customers’ goodwill. On-hold times are now cut to five minutes or under, a step hailed by the supplier as progress. Inbound callers’ odds of E.On Next dropping them before a conversation, now stand at below 10 percent, a low standard on which the supplier again prides itself.
E.ON Next will pay every affected customer £8 in compensation, using up 80% of Ofgem’s fine. The remaining £1 million goes into the regulator’s Voluntary Redress Fund, which supports energy consumers in vulnerable situations, as well as investments in carbon cutting and other innovations.
Cathryn Scott, Ofgem’s director for enforcement, said: “This shows our determination to stand up for the rights of consumers and drive up standards.
“The very least that a customer should expect of their supplier is for them to pick up the phone to them in a timely way. The levels of service that we discovered at E.ON Next during the period of review were unacceptable.
“As the energy regulator, our purpose is to protect energy consumers and this action serves as a reminder to all suppliers that they must ensure that their customers are able to contact them quickly and easily when they need to. This is particularly important during this time of volatile energy prices when many households are struggling with their bills.”
E.on Next is the worst censured of 18 energy firms caught in Ofgem’s latest series of reviews. They found “moderate” call handling weaknesses at 11; British Gas, E Gas, & Electricity, EDF, Good Energy, Outfox the Market, OVO, Scottish Power, SO Energy, Utilita, Utility Warehouse and Tru Energy.
Minor weakness were found at five more: Bulb, Ecotricity, Green Energy, Shell and Octopus. No supplier had ‘no weaknesses’ at all.
E.on Next’s ineptitude is mirrored beyond the utility sector. The Institute of Customer Service calculated in February that continuing corporate hypocrisy about Britons’ “calls being important” to providers of energy, water & other services costs the nation a staggering £11.4 Billion every month.
Reacting to Ofgem’s fining, the Institute’s CEO Jo Causon commented:
“This is a stark reminder why businesses and boards must prioritise customer service. Getting things right in the first instance should be the priority, but when issues arise, or customers have queries, they must be able to get through to the right person in a reasonable timeframe.”
“This takes time, planning and investment to get right. Businesses need to ensure they’ve got the frontline staff in place and equip them with the support, training, systems and data to deal with different customer enquiries as efficiently as possible.”