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nPower’s Customer Service Crisis

npowernPower has once again powered to the bottom of customer service rankings for the Big 6 Energy Suppliers.

That’s the latest finding from Which?

In figures released for the domestic energy market, some 1.7m customers complained to their energy supplier between January and March this year with 26% of those, over 450,000, complaining to nPower.

Complaints for the whole of the market in 2013 were 5.5m suggesting the market is on track for a potential 20%+ increase in complaints in the calendar year of 2014.

nPower’s record however is the most shocking.

  • For every 1,000 customers on their books they receive 83 complaints compared to 30 or less for their competitors.
  • In 2013 nPower received 1.4m complaints, at a rate of one for every four customers supplied,
  • The current run rate suggests 2014 could see as many as 1.8m customers complaining to nPower, more than 25% of their customer base!

nPower have claimed a ‘glitch’ in their systems was the cause for erroneous billing and that this was the major source of complaints.

For this reason they have already been fined £1m in 2013 however Ofgem remain concerned that despite Chief Executive Paul Massara’s ‘apology’ no tangible progress has been seen for customers.

Now Ofgem have called for nPower to meet monthly targets over the next three months to prevent the ongoing stampede of complaints or it will find itself having to cease all proactive telesales activities, or in other words nPower will be banned from taking on any new customers.

An Ofgem spokesman said: “Failure to meet monthly targets will result in npower ceasing all proactive telesales to new and existing customers until they are met.”

This is the first time that Ofgem has acted under their Standards of Conduct policy and follows what Ofgem described as nPower’s “prolonged” issues.

The Standards of Conduct (SoC) state that suppliers must treat consumers fairly and in Ofgem’s view nPower have and continue to fail to be doing this.

Ofgem are requiring nPower to reduce the number of late and missing invoices, which currently stand at around 400,000, to 350,000 by the end of June, 200,000 by the end of July and 100,000 by the end of August.

Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement at Ofgem slammed nPower saying:

“nPower customers have suffered service failures for too long, that’s why Ofgem has secured binding commitments from npower to reduce its bill backlog or face curbs on sales, alongside launching a wider investigation under Ofgem’s new Standards of Conduct.

“Ofgem has been monitoring npower’s service closely and we have been increasingly concerned about the slow progress to tackle failings. nPower’s recovery plan has not delivered as far and fast as is necessary. Our analysis of complaints data also raises some serious concerns which will be thoroughly examined in our investigation.

Massara responded to the latest damning indictment on nPower’s performance by saying:

“We are committed to getting things right for our customers but recognise that despite the progress we have made our current billing standards have fallen short of where everyone wants them to be.

“We are confident that the measures we are already taking and the additional resource announced today will bring our customer service back to normal levels of performance by the end of August. If we have not met this late bill target by then, we will suspend all outbound telesales activity to new customers and not sell additional fuels to existing single fuel customers until we do.

“I want to reiterate again that our customers should not lose out financially as a direct result of our billing system problems and that if customers are worried about a high bill we’ll work with them to reach a suitable payment plan.”

With serendipitous timing therefore came Which?’s finding that once again nPower sit at the bottom of their satisfaction survey of the 17 energy suppliers. Clearly the stats do not lie.

Roll on August for nPower’s long suffering customers.

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