U.K. utilities in the firing line over customer complaints


Allan AsherLondon, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — November 7, 2006 – The U.K. regulator energywatch, which was established to protect the interests of consumers, has named British Gas and ScottishPower as the utilities with the worst customer service record in the country.

British Gas was recently named as the U.K.’s most expensive fuel provider for most customers – and the worst for customer service – on BBC One’s ‘Watchdog’ program. ‘Watchdog’ editor Rob Unsworth said: “’Watchdog’ viewers have been exposing problems with British Gas for years – in fact the company has been on the program more times than almost anyone else.”

New figures from energywatch indicate that complaints about British Gas have doubled, while those for the other big suppliers have halved. Inaccurate billing and lack of response to customer enquiries are among the most common problems.

The utility says it is introducing a new billing system and investing in staff training to improve the situation.

Meanwhile energywatch Scotland has reported a sharp rise in disputes about bills on the part of ScottishPower customers. Billing grievances rose 52 per cent in the first six months of the year, compared to a drop of 27 per cent for Scottish Hydro-Electric and 16 per cent in the case of Scottish Gas.

ScottishPower says one of the main reasons for its billing problems is the increase in customer churn; when customers switch supplier there is sometimes confusion over how much they owe the utility that previously supplied the power. The company points out that complaints represent fewer than 200 customers a month, compared to the 800,000 new electric and gas customers that have signed up for its services in the past year.